Mario Tursi was born in Rome on 9th August 1929 from a family of photographer; his father was a photoengraver and his mother a photographer and manager of photographic labs.
Since an early age he began to use the camera. In the years 1943-44 he made his professional apprenticeship working as “street photographer” for Studio Lombardini.Soon after the Liberation he was hired by Felice Giordani, official Vatican photographer, for whom he worked for a couple of years, until 1948 when he started as photo reporter for agency VEDO (Visioni Editoriali Diffuse Ovunque), the most important Italian agency at the time, run by Adolfo Porry Pastotel. He began to work also for the Associated Press and made several reportages around the world.
In 1956 he took over the agency VEDO and became the manager. During that time he started to go on film sets for some specials. Within years, his visits on film sets from irregular became more and more frequent, extended also to international productions. In 1962, with Mare matto directed by Renato Castellani, he debuted as still photographer, followed by, two years later, Let’s Talk About Men by Lina Wertmuller.
Closed down the agency VEDO in 1965, he definitely focused on cinema photography beginning, among other things, working with Visconti, who wanted him on the set of all his latest films.
Since then he has worked with mainly all of the major Italian directors from Pasolini to Petri, from Rosi to Lattuada to Scola. He worked a lot also with younger directors such as Giuseppe Bertolucci, Massimo Troisi and Roberto Benigni. Often he was asked to work abroad as recorded by the films The name of the Rose by Annaud, Pirates by Polanski, The Last Temptation of Christ by Scorsese and The Horseman on the Roof by Rappeneau.
In 1979 he received a special mention for the still photographs taken for Stay as You Are during the 8th edition of “The Hollywood Reporter” Key Art Awards and, in 1989, he won in Cannes the Grand Prix of Cinema Photography for the shots on The Last Temptation of Christ. In recent years he followed the making of Kundun by Scorsese, Dangerous Beauty by Herskovits, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Hoffman, Titus by Taymor and U-571 by Mostow. His last work was on the set of Gangs of New York by Martin Scorsese, film he recorded entirely.
Considered among the greatest still photographers of Italian cinema, Mario Tursi died in Roma on 1st September 2008.