Ilo The Pirate

Ilo The Pirate


Ilo Alexander Battigelli (1922-2009) was an Italian draftsman who gained his nickname from photographing important moments in the history of the Saudi oil industry while working in Ras Tanura Refinery. Workers in Aramco changed his name and started calling him “Ilo the Pirate” because he had his studio on the beach.

He left Aramco in 1954 and was exhibiting and photographing in the United States, often in pirate garb. After returning to Italy to be with his ill mother, he moved to Southern Rhodesia in 1957 to photograph the construction of the giant Kariba Dam for its Italian contractor. He then opened a studio in Salisbury and continued to shoot studies of people and places. In 2000, he retired with his wife Pauline to San Daniele del Friuli, Italy.

In 1980, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe held an exhibition titled Ilo the Pirate: A Restrospective Exhibition Spanning Ilo Battigelli’s Fifty Years in Photography.



  • Keith Harrop