A Day in the Life of Mussolini

When Mussolini agreed to be trailed for a day by pioneering photojournalist Felix H. Man, the photographer was genuinely surprised. But as a former journalist, Mussolini understood the power of the media in modern political life. He acknowledged existing official images of himself for what they were: stiffly posed, cold portraits that detracted from his desired persona as a “man of the people.”

He identified Man as the ideal candidate for altering this image, as Man had established his reputation photographing candid moments in the lives of important and powerful people for the burgeoning German illustrated weeklies. Man used a small Ermanox cameras to achieve his candid spots and relied on available light, instead of studio lights, which lent an air of authenticity to his photos. It was said that eventhough Mussolini knew that a photographer was shadowing him, he would not notice that Man was taking photos.

A Day in the Life of Mussolini first appeared in Münchner Illustrierte Presse in 1931. Man managed to capture “slice-of-life” images, which humanized Il Duce by presenting him in the course of his daily routine, as though unaware of the camera, in surroundings to which very few had access.

In 1934, Man was forced to leave Nazi Germany for London where he soon became chief photographer of Weekly Illustrated (1934-38), then Picture Post (1938-45). At Weekly Illustrated, he republished the Mussolini photos, with a slightly different angle, as a conniving, scheming man. Man’s play-by-play narrative format used here would go on to establish a new and widely popular paradigm for photo-essays.

Weekly Illustrated – August 4, 1934
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