Claudio Abate, born in Rome in 1943, began working as a photographer very young, opening his own studio at just fourteen. In Via Margutta, which in those days was the hub of Rome's artistic life, Abate was part of the art milieu and photographed both artists and their work. In the early Sixties he worked as an assistant to Erich Lessing, one of the pioneering members of the Magnum photography agency, but notwithstanding the gathering pace of neo-Realism in Italy, was not attracted to photography reportage as a medium. Abate's predilection was instead for art, particularly art in movement, and soon he began focussing his attention towards those young artists that would shortly overturn the accepted concept of making art.
After meeting Carmelo Bene in 1959, from 1963 Abate documented Bene's theatre and film productions for the following decade. Over the same period he collaborated with the magazine Sipario following the evolution of the Rome art scene, its revolutionary protagonists and its key venues: Leo De Berardinis and Perla Peragallo, Carlo Quartucci, the Living Theatre, Beat 72, with some shots even of the Teatro Borgo Santo Spirito of the D'Origlia Palmi company, which included Carmelo Bene among its many enthusiasts.
By the end of the Sixties Claudio Abate had established his reputation as the acclaimed photographer of the Rome avant-garde art scene, with his shots of actions and works by Pino Pascali, Jannis Kounellis, Eliseo Mattiacci and Fabio Mauri. His collaboration with these and many other artists, as well as with the gallery owner Fabio Sargentini, was to last for many years. Considered exemplary images of that particular liaison between visual arts and theatre that was so influential in the Sixties and Seventies, Abate's photographs were often upheld by authors and artists as the only authorised visual document of their actions, performances or installations. This was the case, for example, with Kounellis' twelve live horses, Gino De Dominicis' zodiac or Maurizio Mochetti's light point travelling at 180 kilometres per hour. Generation after generation, Abate has maintained his position as the most accredited art photographer, his reputation for generosity and patience clearly accompanied also by a sharp and selective eye for art. The high esteem in which Abate is held by gallery owner Michael Werner has led to a number of projects in Germany, where he has worked extensively with the Neuen Wilden artists and where, in 1986, he was invited by the widow of Joseph Beuys to document the copious number of works that the artist had arranged in the Landesmuseum of Darmstadt shortly before his death. At the end of the 1980s Abate moved both his studio and home to the San Lorenzo district of Rome, where he had found fresh ground for collaboration artists such as Nunzio and Pizzicannella, and later with a generation of younger artists.
Alongside his activity with artists, over the years Abate has also conducted his own personal artistic research which was presented for the first time in 1972, at the Incontri Internazionali d'Arte association in a show curated by Achille Bonito Oliva. Bonito Oliva also curated a recent anthological show of his works at MART - Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Rovereto - and at the French Academy in Rome.
Photographer for the stage, photographer of artists, photographer for magazines, portrait photographer - Abate has also pursued his own personal artistic path. All his work is however underpinned by his marked perception of space, his treatment of each single image as entirely unique, his sense of mild irony, his repeated choice of frontal shots, his obvious and prominent empathy with his subjects.