Spazio Ballatoio

28 September - 20 October 2013

In co-operation with Brand Usa, Sergio Bonelli Editore, Nikon, Epson, Nova Skola

6th edition of Travel Literature Festival


Opening of the exhibition of travel antique and contemporary photos, as well as comic strips edited by Ilaria Campodonico, Nadia Fusco, Romina Marani. Black and white photos by Timothy H. O'Sullivan (of the expeditions by  George M. Wheeler in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, California from 1871 to 1874) taken from the archives of  Società Geografica Italiana; black and white strips of the comics hero Tex Willer; video projections of photos taken by Antonio Politano on his coast-to-coast trip of contemporary presentation.




"Go West", was the invitation to those who, towards the end of the nineteenth century, were ready to leave to seek their fortune. The myth of the frontier as it moved more and more to the west, following artillery and railway, building a nation and destroying cultures, was formed along that line. Those movements, dilated, crossing paths of legendary roads, literary references and films, gave birth to another mythology, the coast-to-coast. From east to go west, as the settlers, the pioneers, the seekers of various glories. By land, and not  jumping on a plane, allowing at most the time of a train journey. From New York, the capital of it all, crossing the Country, through the Midwest, the territories of the natives, some cities, Antonio Politano arrived on the other side, up and down to San Francisco and the stars of Los Angeles, up to the pier in Santa Monica, where a sign indicates the end of Route 66, next to a Ferris wheel and the surfers. An exhibition of photographs, accompanied by sounds strictly taken on the road.

Antonio Politano is photojournalist for various different newspapers and magazines, mainly La Repubblica e National Geographic Italia. He authored various publications, such as l'Agenda del Viaggio e I Colori della Luce. He heads the photographic and travel magazine Sguardi. He edits the program of the Festival of Travel Writing.




O'Sullivan's photographs, preserved in the photographic archives of the Italian Geographic Society, are the result of an institutional agreement between the Ministry of War of the United States of America and the association that took place in 1881. In that year, the Third International Geographical Congress was held in Venice, on behalf of the organizing committee, the Italian Geographical Society. The Congress was attended by geographers and scholars in related disciplines from all over the world, and also by many explorers, civil and military alike, who presented on that occasion the outcome of their endeavor. Among those presents was also Captain George M. Wheeler, engineer and surveyor, Delegate to Congress on behalf of the Ministry of War of the United States, which, in the nineteenth century, had led numerous campaigns of exploration and geological survey in the West beyond the 100th meridian.

Captain Wheeler was very well-known, so that the Italian Geographical Society had appointed him honorary member since February 1880. Wheeler had brought with him a wealth of documentation related to his dispatch's reports, topographic maps and books, but also few albums of beautiful photographs that were exhibited in the major exhibition, organized by the Congress. They were pictures of the wilds of the American West and its original inhabitants, evidence of a world of extraordinary beauty, then immersed in a solitude without time and destined to change in a few decades. Mostly, the photos were made by a young but already experienced photographer who had followed him during the exploration campaigns of the years 1871, 1873, 1874, Timothy H. O'Sullivan. When the Congress was over, Captain Wheeler presented as a gift to the Geographical Society all the material, including beautiful photos by O'Sullivan, collected in an album, on which he wrote by his own hand an inscription dated September 1881.




Travel, in Tex's universe, is not an optional but an essential part of the adventure, a character. Travel and adventure have strong ties. This concept is part of the last great mythology of the Occidental world and the result of colonization of old American territories; the bigger were the spaces, the greater was the need to move through them.

History becomes legend since the first comic strip, in 1948. Tex, after a long gallop that brought him beyond Texas' borders, is ready to use, for the first time and before our eyes, his infallible guns. All is set, the fate is written. In just 34 pages (the length of the first episode) we can understand that, from the genius of Gianluigi Bonelli and Aurelio Galleppini has been created the greatest Italian historic novel of the XX Century, the saga that shows the adventures of a brave, kind and ironic hero in the incredible West. Episode after episode, Tex goes through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico, Canada until Polynesia, in a mixture of fact and fiction.




Thanks to a mixture of fact and fiction , Tex's adventure with Timothy O'Sullivan begins in the desert of Nevada and then moves to Central America's jungles, where actually Timothy O'Sullivan acted when he was alive. The tale was originally distributed on three consecutive comic books.

The first one, "Il solitario del West" (number 250, August 1981) recalls the historical figure of the photographer. Bonelli's script accurately displays details of mid-19th century's photography illustrating O'Sullivan's wagon (inspired to the picture that depicts him in Carson Desert, Nevada, in 1867) or the scene in which O'Sullivan shows to Tex some pictures  as the one shot at Canyon de Chelly, New Mexico, during George M. Wheeler's expedition to the 100th meridian (1873). Tex and O'Sullivan's encounter precedes the geological exploration in Panama (1870 - in which Tex accompanies O'Sullivan). This shift is due to the fantastic nature of the comic that allows such temporal changes. After the conclusion of the three comic books - "Il solitario del West" (250), "Giungla crudele" (251) and "Il volto del traditore" (252) - Timothy O'Sullivan  appears again as background actor in "Killer senza volto" (287). In this adventure, after many circumstances, is depicted the memorable ratification of the treaty between the government of the United States and the Cheyenne Chief Appanoosa, and is exactly O'Sullivan who shoots the official picture of this meeting. His participation to the episode, a real jewel, is divided between this final and the beginning of the story, when Tex and his "Pards" meet O'Sullivan's photographic wagon and, thanks to his intervention, can solve an investigation based on a woman's portrait made by Timothy O'Sullivan itself.