Millions of shots and hundreds of photographers, some even very famous, have passed since the Costa Smeralda was born. But there was only one essential photographer from the Costa Smeralda, the one who immortalized his birth and first steps with his shots.
Nello Di Salvo, of Sicilian origins, arrived in Sardinia in 1946 and died twenty years ago, on June 29, 2001, at the age of 76, but his black and white photographs have marked an era and still today there is no. it is the history of the Costa Smeralda or of tourism in Sardinia that can be told without those images that have now entered the collective imagination.
From a very young Aga Khan in a still unspoiled Monti di Mola, to the first construction sites, from the arrivals of the crowned heads of Europe to the stars of the roaring Sixties, there is no shot that does not bear his signature.
The meeting with Karim Aga Khan in Olbia, where he had a small workshop, in 1960. The first camera, a Kloster, he had bought in 1950 with the birth of the first of his seven children. “It cost 22 thousand lire, – he said in an interview with the Union – and I paid a thousand lire a month but then I was unemployed and so I started shooting, with a peddler’s license. I worked mostly on Sundays.
The girls after mass went to the gardens and had their photos taken posing like the stars of the cinema. With weddings I started touring Sardinia with my Cucciolo 50. In the Nuoro area they paid little but in return I returned with the bike loaded with pork and cheese ».
Then, the turning point. «At the end of the 1950s, the Croce del sud of Mentasti (one of the founders of the Costa Smeralda and owner of San Pellegrino) landed in the port of Olbia. One day, in 1960, Mentasti came to me with a young man.
They asked me if I had 16mm color film and slides. I didn’t even know what they were, but I undertook to let him have them for the next day. They cost thirty thousand lire and it was a risk because I didn’t know those gentlemen.
But they seemed good to me, so I went to pick them up in Sassari and gave them to them. So it was that I met that young man, the Aga Khan. Then they began to take me by the day, five thousand lire, they took me with them and made me snap. They mostly wanted 360-degree photos.
So I documented the birth of the Costa Smeralda. First with the photos they commissioned, then with the ones I took on my own initiative. Because I immediately realized the importance of this thing that was being born “.
In a few years the Costa Smeralda becomes a phenomenon of custom. “The tourist tale – writes Marco Navone, editor of the volume" In our Time “- needs to be represented and Nello Di Salvo appears to be the most suitable individual to do so.
His training was not consumed in making the snapshot on the beaches of Ostia as for the modern Pasquini of the Roman nights but it was spent photographing the signs of the difficult development of a still closed and isolated world ». In a few years those photos end up in the major national and international newspapers. In 1966 the Daily Mirror published on the front page a photo of the Duchess of Kent at the Romazzino.
Nello Di Salvo’s distance from the unscrupulous paparazzo also emerges from his stories. “The sixties were the most beautiful, every day there was a party. – He had told on the pages of the newspaper-One day they told me that he wanted to talk to me a gentleman, he was a count.
They took me to his boat and he commissioned me a job. She has to come to a party and is free to take as many photos as she wants. But you have to deliver the rolls to me. I accepted and she gave me a million. The appointment was at the Pitrizza and from there we left with the boats.
There was an impressive security service, the first paparazzi crowding. Once on board, I discovered that there were all the exponents of the international jet set, the Aga Khan was perhaps the poorest. I gained the count’s trust that he also asked me to develop and print the photos which I then gave him. I got dozens of offers for those images. But I had given my word and I didn’t give it up ».
Shots that in some way have marked the news photographers of subsequent generations who have told the Costa Smeralda and Gallura with their images. “I used to see Nello’s photos in the shop windows and then I recognized them in magazines when I was a child", says Antonio Satta, photojournalist collaborator of L’Unione Sarda: “Although I had never attended his studio, I realized much later how much his photographic eye influenced me and how much what I saw served me when I entered the profession. Nello’s photos were not posed.