Alfa Castaldi has been one of the key figures in Italian fashion photography. Born in Milan in 1926, dies in Milan in 1995.
He started his career in the ’50s as a reporter in post-war Milan where he worked in a close relationship with Ugo Mulas. The base was the ‘Bar Giamaica’ in Brera where all the artistic and literary intelligentsia of the city used to gather in a sort of bohemian lifestyle. Alfa was a sophisticated intellectual, coming out of a brilliant academic career in History of the Arts at the University of Florence where he studied with the great Italian art critic Roberto Longhi of whom he had become the favourite student. But becoming a critic didn’t appeal to him and soon he became fascinated by the editorial world and the new photographic reportage language. So he turned to photography and started to collaborate as a freelance with the major Italian magazines of the time. In the late ’50s, he met Anna Piaggi and started working with her on fashion stories. They later married and worked together uninterruptedly till his death in 1995.
The great success of Alfa’s photography is based on his fashion works and his portraits.
Nevertheless, Alfa always retained a distinctive intellectual approach to photography that led him to cultivate many different kinds of photographic projects ranging from street photography to highly pictorial large format ‘photocubist’ images. That traced some sort of difference between him and the rest of the fashion photography scene. He was an outsider. In all the events and celebrations held in the last ten years after his death Alfa has always been remembered for his culture and his “experimental approach” to photography but for some reason, his personal researches remain mostly unknown and unpublished.