American, b. Italy, 1926 – 1982
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Raimondo Borea was born in Rome in 1926. By the early 1950’s, he was already photographing candid portraits of orphaned and homeless war children housed in the Boys’ Towns of Italy. Borea emigrated to the United States in 1953. He settled in New York City, where he joined the Village Camera Club and The Circle of Confusion. Frequent meetings held by both these informal groups, attended by fellow photographers with a passion for the Leica camera, led Borea to develop his own highly personal form of creative expression.
About his photographic method, Borea wrote:
Photography enables me to discover, observe [and] understand things about people and their relationships, and it allows me to capture and hold them forever… It is by photographs, rather than by talking about experiences, that I communicate.Photography is an expression of your individuality. You start with color or black and white. Then having chosen your film, the camera, the lens, the developer, the paper for the final print, you can create an almost infinite number of ways to make a photograph.I enjoy being in my darkroom. There is something in the still darkness that brings out your best creative thinking. You relive your past photography and plan your future… You experience a very special sensation holding the end product…the picture you have printed yourself.
Building on his career as a young photographer in Italy, Borea began working full time in 1957 as a freelance photographer, traveling around New York City on his three-speed Dunelt bicycle. He shot photographic essays of now-demolished New York City landmarks, including the Washington Square Market and the Third Avenue El. He also photographed many other cityscapes, including Central Park, Riverside Park, and the New York City subway system. In his picture-making, he often transformed these locales into studies of abstraction. Borea also produced photographic essays from his travels around the US and abroad.
Borea was afforded exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Firing Line, The Today Show, and The Tonight Show, where he captured candid portraits of the show’s hosts, including William F. Buckley, Jr., Johnny Carson, Hugh Downs, Dave Garroway, David Letterman, and Jack Paar. Among the guests that Borea photographed were Fred Astaire, James Baldwin, Salvador Dali, Bette Davis, Farrah Fawcett, Betty Friedan, Benny Goodman, Steve Martin, Ethel Merman, Robert Mitchum, Ayn Rand, Eleanor Roosevelt, Twiggy, Gore Vidal, and Tom Wolfe. Several telecasts of Borea’s photographs were also presented on The Today Show, narrated by Hugh Downs.
Over the course of his career, Borea was an active member in numerous photographic associations. In addition to the Village Camera Club and The Circle of Confusion, he was also a member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers (ASMP) and the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP), where he served as President from 1974 to 1975. He developed both close personal and professional relationships with well-known photographers, including André Kertész, Ruth Orkin, Esmond Edwards, Barbara Morgan, and John Albok. A number of vintage, signed photographs by and/or of these artists are also part of the Raimondo Borea Photography Collection.
Borea’s photographs were published in numerous magazines (Boys’ Life, Ladies’ Home Journal, National Review, Pageant, and Popular Photography), in books (Bunnies in School [Scholastic]), First thing in the Morning [Cowles], Seymour, A Gibbon [Atheneum], and Who needs parks? [Rapoport Printing Corp.]), and on album covers (Hang on Ramsey ! The Ramsey Lewis Trio (Cadet) and Johnny Carson’s Introduction to New York and The World’s Fair [Columbia.]). Borea also used his expertise in the darkroom to print photographs from the original glass negatives by Alice Austen, one of the first female photographers in America to work outside of the confines of a studio setting. This eventually led to the publication of a book of her photographs, entitled Alice’s World.
Borea’s photographs have been exhibited in New York City at the Gallery of Modern Art, the New York Public Library, and the Art Directors Club. Selected photographs are held in the collections of the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Libraries’ Collection, the ASPP archives, Associated Press, the University of Maryland, and SUNY/Albany.