Luigi Ghirri – An adventure in thinking and looking

Luigi Ghirri – An adventure in thinking and looking

Thoughts, deeds, actions, visions, sounds, words, objects, ethic groups and echoes that come from everywhere in an evident and overwhelming fashion, transform and mark modernity. In our existence, this sense of alienation, this having continuously to relocate the common denominator, to unravel the billions of little physical and mental junctions and crossroads, a continuous re-finding ourselves only to get lost once again becomes the dominant feature of our era.

Luigi Ghirri, Lo sguardo inquieto, un’antologia di sentimenti (The restless daze, an anthology of feelings), 1988

What is photography? Luigi Ghirri – one of the most influencing photographers ever, and a milestone of contemporary history of the medium – answered to this question defining it as an adventure in thinking and looking. Ghirri’s adventure lasted 20 years, from 1970 to 1992, when he died prematurely, and left us an amazing collection of images, which reflects his personal and intimate dimension in a sort of anthropological research.

An important exhibition dedicated to this master of photography has just closed at Castello di Rivoli, and we couldn’t have avoid visiting the show – just in time before the finissage – to report our impressions and share them with our readers, giving inputs to all the photography lovers that unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to live this experience. It’s no accident that in a time when sensationalism and ostentation seem to be inapt, places and people devoted to art re-discover the work of Luigi Ghirri, sunk into the oblivion for many years.

Ghirri’s approach to the act of taking pictures is comparable to an exercise of memory and soul. His pictures, depicting landscapes, working activities, diverse apparently meaningless objects or normal people – photographed from the back or afar, during their everyday life –, underline the photographer’s will of experimenting and probing all the possibilities and specificities of the medium. But the camera is much more than this for Luigi Ghirri, who used it to create his unique journal made of places and individuals interpreted without harking back to any previous model. The Artist’s project prints – the first contact prints, produced to visualize his work – shows that he rarely made changes in the framing in the darkroom, while his interventions were mainly related to chromatic control.

Through the research of the perfect colour intensity – unsaturated and delicate colours, a quality that allows to make the shots lighter – Ghirri was able to create his typical chromatic effect, which gives to the observers the feeling of going outside the images, beyond the appearance. Thanks to photography the artist introduced the possibility of representing the landscape as an anthropized environments dominated by an almost metaphysical silence that allow people to see the obvious from another point of view, measuring it slowly to reveal its details.

Monica Lombardi – Images from the archives of Luigi Ghirri