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Luigi Ghirri and the Photography of Place

Interdisciplinary Perspectives


Edited By 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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10 Narrating the Experience of Place: Luigi Ghirri and Literature (Marina Spunta)


← 198 | 199 →


10   Narrating the Experience of Place: Luigi Ghirri and Literature

In an essay written in 2004 for the twentieth anniversary of Viaggio in Italia [Journey through Italy], photographer Gabriele Basilico argued that ‘Among the many merits of Luigi Ghirri and of those who worked closely with him, [was] the capacity to detect a moment of great socio-cultural transition in Italy between the late 1970s and early 1980s’. Basilico also praised Ghirri’s ‘ability to give new impetus to the critical debate on photography by linking this debate both to literature and to the visual arts, and by bringing together descriptive language, narrative form and symbolic value’.1 In the same essay, by offering a comparison with the French DATAR project to which he was invited to participate, Basilico suggested that Ghirri played a central role in re-viewing the Italian landscape and Italian (landscape) photography.2 The double opening that Ghirri’s photography afforded to both place and landscape and to literature is not coincidental, but rather central to his art, and to the cultural change undergone in Italy and outside in those years. This shift saw Italian culture at the end of the 1970s gradually move away from a neo-avant-garde, experimental approach to a new engagement with mass media and consumption and, at the same time, a growing environmental sensitivity and a resistance to the ← 199 | 200 → increasing speed of post-industrial societies. While Italian photography and particularly Ghirri’s work in the 1980s has been...

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