Luigi Ghirri and the transformation of reality – #100GameChangers

Luigi Ghirri is one of the great masters of Italian photography. He used photography to questioning reality. Through images make us reflect on the difference between what we see and what they represent. In over twenty years, he took hundreds of thousands of images, conceived research and changed the way we see the surrounding reality.

Luigi Ghirri was born on 5 January 1943 at Fellegara in Emilia Romagna. In 1946 the Ghirri’s family moved to Braida di Sassuolo. They found accommodation in the summer house of the San Carlo Jesuit college in Modena. It is a home for families displaced from urban centres by the war. The atmosphere of the Emilian province, the climate of recovery and cultural ferment of post-war marked his adolescence. At the end of the 1950s he moved with his family to Modena. Here he undertook technical studies to become a surveyor.

At the same time, a fervent passion for photography was born in the Italian photographer. He graduated as a surveyor in 1962 and worked in a technical office in Modena. From a simple passion, photography grew . Ghirri came into contact with artists working in Modena in the context of conceptual trends and Arte Povera. In December 1972 he exhibited for the first time in the hall of the Canalgrande Hotel in Modena. In October 1975 he was invited to the exhibition Art as Photography – Photography as art in Kassel. “Time-Life” dedicated an eight-page portfolio to him in “Time-Life Photography year” and named him Discovery of the year.In 1977 he founded the publishing house ‘Punto e virgola’, specializing in photography.

“I am looking for a view of the outside world and a view of a more hidden, inner world of attention, of memories that are often overlooked”.

Luigi Ghirri

What makes these shots special is the lack of emphasis and the sober neutrality that the photographer, in perfect line with his style, uses to capture the acclaimed buildings. The environmental context, the atmosphere and the surroundings are as important as the building. It was meaning and significance, and are essential to complete the photograph itself. The human presence in many of these shots is inevitable. Moreover, the photographer’s mastery lies in his ability to capture the most suitable moment when every figure appears distant and impersonal. The men become part of the context itself but are anonymous, expressionless in the wide-angle lens. Among all the places photographed, a special place in Ghirri’s heart is occupied by the panoramas of Emilia.

The Italian project Viaggio, conceived by Ghirri is a milestone for Italian photography. It constitued an unofficial manifesto of the Italian landscape school born in those years. He died suddenly in 1992, at the age of 49, of a heart attack. He leaves us a body of profound, sometimes ironic, images capable of moving us and a profound reflection on the language of photography.

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