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Luigi Ghirri and the Photography of Place

Interdisciplinary Perspectives


Marina Spunta and Jacopo Benci

The photographer Luigi Ghirri (1943–1992) was one of the most significant Italian artists of the late twentieth century. This volume – the first scholarly book-length publication on Ghirri to appear in English – introduces his photographic and critical work to a broader audience and positions Ghirri as a key voice within global artistic debates. It breaks new ground by approaching Ghirri’s œuvre from a wide range of interdisciplinary perspectives, in order to take account of the breadth of his interests, the variety of his projects and the far-reaching impact of his work as a practitioner, writer, theorist and curator, both in the field of photography and beyond. Drawing on different approaches from disciplines including art history, theory of photography, literary and cultural studies, architecture, cartography, and place and landscape studies, the essays in the volume show how Ghirri redefined contemporary photography and helped shape the «spatial» or «landscape» turn in Italy and further afield.

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3 Luigi Ghirri’s Photography from the 1970s to the 1980s: The Working Image, the Artistic Language (Paolo Barbaro)


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3   Luigi Ghirri’s Photography from the 1970s to the 1980s: The Working Image, the Artistic Language

Two decades

Few artists have succeeded so clearly in articulating two decades in their work. Luigi Ghirri started taking photographs at the end of the 1960s, organizing his work for the purposes of exhibition and publication in series identified by a title.1 Only towards the end of the 1970s can one take an overall look at his photography with Kodachrome in 1978,2 and more exhaustively in Luigi Ghirri/Vera fotografia [True Photography] in 1979, where he organized his work in chapters that either belonged in previous series or were realized for the purpose of this exhibition. On ← 47 | 48 → various occasions, freely quoting a well-known short story by Jorge Luis Borges,3 Ghirri claimed that viewing his work in its entirety allowed him to consider new directions and to mark out a clear distinction from the readings given to it by several critics at the time as pop or conceptual art. In fact, much had already changed for Ghirri and a new artistic awareness was at play as he was working on his 1979 retrospective and its catalogue. For example, this was the first time that Ghirri wrote extensively about his own work. In the catalogue each series of photographs was accompanied by two texts, one by curator Massimo Mussini, which provided an art-historical contextualization and a critical interpretation of the images,...

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