In Just Passing Through, photographer and art critic Milton Gendel chronicles his life in Italy, using insightful photographs and juicy bon mots culled from his diary entries that span nearly 70 years. Gendel, born in New York City in 1918, borrowed a Leica camera while in the army and discovered an affinity for taking pictures. He won a Fulbright scholarship and opted to study architecture in Rome, where he took up residence permanently in December 1949 and worked for ARTnews magazine. He remained in the Eternal City until his death in 2018.
As his diary entries recount, Gendel interacted socially with the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Gore Vidal, Sir Alec Guinness and J. Paul Getty. Because Gendel was more of an observer than a talker, his working relationships often evolved into long-lasting friendships. His daughter, Anna, describes her father as "his own cultural microclimate." Editor Cullen Murphy (Cartoon County) notes that he "knew when to leave the conversation, take his camera out, quietly snap some pictures, then rejoin the conversation." Such unobstructive behavior undoubtedly kept Gendel gainfully employed and deeply ensconced in friendships throughout his remarkable life.
Gendel's observations and photographs showcase both the stark (Roma children on the street) and the whimsical (Queen Elizabeth feeding hamburger to her corgis), and his words let readers glimpse the unspoken. Experiencing Just Passing Through is akin to having an artistic guide proffer his literal and visual understanding of 70 years as a Roman local--while cultural icons defining the decades swirl around you both. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer