Born in Kenya, (when it was still a colony of British East Africa) to an Italian father and a French mother, Mirella Ricciardi grew up in a household on the shores of Lake Naivasha. Her mother, Giselle Bunau-Varilla, was taught by Auguste Rodin. Yet her daughter was more interested in photography than in sculpture. Ricciardi worked for two years as a volunteer for the fashion photographer Harry Meerson, who taught her the fundamentals of photography and professional lightning, but above all how to see the world photographically. Some years later Ricciardi moved to New York where she further developed her skills before returning to her home in Africa.
Inspired by the surroundings of her youth at Lake Naivasha, known for the remarkable diversity of its wildlife as well as being home to native inhabitants of the area, she started to photograph the lives of the members of the local east African tribes. For her photographic project Riccardi choose to photograph the Kenyan tribes of the Samburu, Massai, Rendille, Turkana, Bajun and the Gala Boran, and to document their traditional manner of life. She was also interested in the particular beauty of these people and how they dealt with life and death cycles. The artist published a collection of her iconic photographs in her revolutionary book Vanishing Africa (1971), which is known as the first coffee table book with worldwide success.
Her unique photographs are often platinum printed. Platinum prints are coated by hand and able to capture subtle nuances in tonal scale, create a slight sepia finish, and are known for their durability.
In 2011 Blanca Bernheimer presented, in collaboration with Amina Ricciardi (the photographer’s daughter and founder of the Mirella Ricciadi Photographic Archives) a limited selection of large scale platinum and silver gelatin prints by the artist at the Munich gallery. Furthermore Ricciardi’s work is showcased at art fairs such as the Paris Photo and Frieze Masters.