domenica 17 gennaio 2016

Gianni Limonta's collection is going to Shanghai to become the greatest museum of photography

The collectors' world is very mysterious: a collector generally hide himself from the public curiosity and he is very discreet about what is truly in his possession. Often, the collector searches for the rarest pieces for personal satisfaction and only a few people around him are aware of this uncontrollable desire to possess.
When I asked to Gianni Limonta if I could visit him to know his story, I had not idea of what I could find in his shop, but even less I could imagine what he sold to a chinese buyer.
When I arrived in Bergamo, 50 km from Milan, I was not sure to be welcome by Gianni, because  whe I talked to him at the telephone he was very mistrustful and brusque.
Despite this, when I arrived in via Statuto, I saw Gianni Limonta outside the shop he opened 50 years ago and I understood we could become friends. I knew this man has sold his collection a few months ago and probably this for this reason I found him.
Collectors, contrary to what you might think, sometimes do not even know each other, Gabriele Chiesa and Paolo Gosio, two of the biggest collectors of daguerrotypes in the world had the same passion for many decades didn't know to live in the same quarter of Brescia. After they knew each other started to collaborate at the same collection.
Limonta started to collect photo cameras when he was only 21 y.o. His brother in law made him a present and after a 1915 folding camera Gianni searched for older photo cameras. When his clients knew about this passion they started to bring to sell their old cameras to Gianni. Most of the time they had in exchange just a couple of film rolls because they didn't imagine the value of their pieces.

 Gianni Limonta (71 y.o.) with the crates containing his photographic collection ready to take the flight to Shanghai where will be open the largest and most important museum in the world

Now, to start a collection you have to be a millionaire, in the Internet era everybody is well informed about prices and evaluetion of every item, while in the golden age of photographic collectibles there were only books and auctions to stay updated on cameras and sales. Before many people was inexperienced and  not even imagined what was in its hands.
Gianni Limota was born in an humble family, but it seems that everything went well in his life, thanks to a particularly combative and enterprising character. He made his way in the world, he is likeable, successful in his profession and with women. Now he lives in a XVI century house that had become too chaotic for the fact that there were cameras of great value everywhere, even in the garage and in the henhouse (Obviously, not thrown there, but preserved and protected with the utmost care. I promised not to reveal this detail, but I could not resist to tell you this).
In the shop window I saw a great deal of interesting material, there are a pair of wooden stereoscopic cameras of the end of '800, all kinds of Rolleiflex and many other cameras. Inside there is a big acid green 16mm film projector made in the '50 by Ducati, yes it's the same Ducati so famous for the sport motorbikes that 60 years ago produced photo cameras, radios and later in the '70 also marine engines. In another cabinet I saw a Luckyflex, a rare 24X36 twin lens reflex camera made in Milano in 1947.
Gianni Limonta sold 3000 photo cameras and other rarity for a total of 8 tons of goods, but he still owns 1000 photo cameras.

The Fairchild Aircraft K17c (1951) used during the Korea war. There are only 2 of these cameras in the world. It weights 33 kg.

Part of the Limonta Collection

Lamberti & Garbagnati a famous italian wooden camera of the year 1900

Ducati Gioia 16mm sound projector

Part of Limonta Collection

Robot Record 24 (Single piece?)

A very special Robot was built by request of Pirelli with a chassis that can be loaded with 35mm motion picture film and shoots movies at 24 frames per second. It is a photo camera transformed into a movie camera.

Microcine Orafon 16mm with a 60 m chassis (1952)

The first sound movie camera capable of shooting a synchronized professional audio was Italian. Officially built in about 100 specimens, including 48 that were sold in the USA, by Mr. Remuzzi of Bergamo. The Orafon allowed to taking the picture with one or two films to record audio directly in the machine a variable density optical column, or to add the sound in the process of dubbing (in this case it used two films, one for the image, the other for a separate audio track). It was a very expensive camera. The sound version costed 946,000 lire. There was also a silent version at a price of 162000 lire Gianni Limonta had two of these cameras purchased by the grandchildren of the engineer who designed them. He donated one of them to the Museum of Cinema of Turin.

Part of the Limonta Collection

Gianni and his last acquisition, the Precision Micro-Projector Fkatters & Garnett made in Manchester, UK in the '20 of the XX century

Gianni Limonta sold his collection because in Italy nobody wanted to make a very important museum of photography. He was warried to get older, he has not heirs, and he had not more place to keep all his cine and photo cameras.
If you wish to know entirely his story you can find it on my italian blog: Frammenti di Cultura. Tony Graffio

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