"Thinking Images," an Exploration of Italian Post Modern Dialectic in Architectural Photography through the Work of Luigi Ghirri
by Sonia Melani Miller
During the early 1970s, photographer Luigi Ghirri collaborated with a group of Modena's conceptual artists in the research for the way the national territory was represented in amatorial photography (the stereotypical representation of the national landscape). Ghirri, because of this conceptual research that ended up lasting throughout the length of his career, was able to build a lexicon of the icons, images, and elements populating the visual tradition of Italian’s contemporary culture. Thus, he investigated, by the mean of his photography, the process of seeing through the evocation of icons of collective memory and the genius loci of architectonic places, later cooperating with architect Aldo Rossi also invested in a similar research. This essay explores Ghirri’s use of landscape photography to create a narrative in tune with Rossi’s dialectic of urban spaces and architecture.
History of Photography
Contemporary Photography
Art History
 
“I bring you the photographs. Like Alice, I take you by the hand and I invite you to enter this play. You will be the one to trace the signs ahead, and who will see it after us will be able to do the same.” - Paola Ghirri, wife of Luigi Ghirri.
This statement made by the wife of Luigi Ghirri, an Italian photographer deceased in 1992, is an interpretation of the work conducted by the artist throughout his lifetime, now carried forward in his former studio.1 The continuation in the development of Ghirri’s ideas is almost the fulfillment of the artist’s wish to continue his life-long research on the visual expression of the collective.2 This paper discusses the ‘visual study’ undertaken by Luigi Ghirri and focuses on his experience in representing the structuralist language of universal signs of Aldo Rossi’s architecture.
The work of Luigi Ghirri gradually developed reflective of a generation that had witnessed the economic revival of the postwar period and the cultural ferments of 1960s Italy.3 Ghirri alike other Italian artists of that time developed a new visual language to express the eclectic changes in Italian contemporary culture.4 His methodology reached maturity in his most recent work, where the fragmented iconography developed at different phases of his career articulated in larger projects portraying the cultural contingencies of the Italian urban landscape.5 These projects, encompassing a series of traveling exhibitions and art books, exemplify Ghirri’s preoccupation with the research of the ‘collective,’ either as a reconstruction of images, memories, consciousness, or written language.6 In his early interaction with other Italian conceptual artists, Ghirri acquired an interest in found object and in international trends, exploring the role of photography in contemporary art.7 From his early years, he considered his photographic work a progressive investigation where each image, gauged in terms of its own content, was reused projects after project. He aligned Marchel Duchamp’s idea of the ready-made with the writings of the surrealists, and centered his work on the transformation of perceptual information into visual concepts (fig. 1).8
Figure 1: Roma, 1978, from Luigi Ghirri, Kodachrome (1970-1978). Color Print (24x17 cm).
The photograph of a crumbled up newspaper was the closing image in the project Kodachrome. The phrase “Come pensare per immagini-how to think through images,” Ghirri said, “contains the meaning of all my work.” Ghirri’s thoughts in this work were a quotation from philosopher Giordano Bruno: “thinking is speculating through images.” Ghirri’s interpretation of Bruno’s words underlines the understanding of photography as an activity guided by rationality, and the idea of the photographic act as an abandonment of the irrationality of feelings. Probably not by coincidence the photograph of Sir John Frederick William Herschel taken by Margaret Cameron also appears in Ghirri's paper. Herschel was a scientist that contributed to the science of photography by investigating UV and color blindness. Cameron, on the other hand was a neo-Raphaelite that took this very subjective portrait of Herschel. Ghirri's images, therefore, are meant to be enigmas that get resolved through perception. See: Massimo Mussini, Luigi Ghirri: Through Photography (SI, 2001), 43.
 
Ghirri had absorbed in his own work the artistic theories of the late 1960s, when Italian photography came to a turning point by steering away from documentary practice towards more conceptual investigations.9 The ideas on the semiotic of the image of Umberto Eco and the Italian translation of Walter Benjamin’s writings in 1969 had instigated artists to research a new photographic approach outside of the conventions of the circles of ‘aesthetic clubs’ and of the monopoly of the socially engaged.10 This was an attitude that continued into the ‘representation of the real’ in the 1970s and that led to other similar artistic currents at the end of the century.
Ghirri’s technique, therefore, strayed away from contemporary technical and artistic canons and was devoid of the ideological drive of the late 1960s.11 He was one of the pioneers of Italian color photography for the representation of the real, intended as the detachment from academic traditions through the use of standardized materials and processes.12 He used a small Polaroid camera throughout the 1970s-80s that was later replaced by a medium format SLR, and exclusively processed his prints in commercial labs. His approach emphasized the populist nature of the snapshot, which he considered a photographic method understood by most people.13 Ghirri adopted a social anthropological approach initially aiming at recording modes of behavior through the representation of emblematic situations. He used very unusual viewpoints, explored urban surfaces, and made imaginary journeys by photographing the pages of geographic atlas.14 He also increasingly used a semiotic language to create chronicles of specific periods and places, including still life series emphasizing the potential stratified meaning of objects endowed by their contextualization.15 Many of the photographs Ghirri took during his early years became the starting point for the ‘ongoing visual study’ reflected in later projects; which were typically structured as monographs and often included overlapping images and themes.16
The Late 1960s, Structuralism and Collectivity
Pressing economic changes, along with the overall cultural fermentation of the 1960s shaped a whole new brand of socially active Italian artists. These artists were the offspring of a generation struggling to come to terms with the rapid transformation of the national landscape that in only a few decades had transitioned from an agrarian culture to a post-industrial economy. The effect of these changes on the physical and social realms deeply reflected on all forms of visual culture, leading contemporary artists to research new means for representing their conflicting feelings about the rapid and eclectic metamorphosis the country was experiencing.
Various regional groups formed during this period, encouraged by the climate of cooperation among professionals that fueled the exchange of ideas between architects, urban planners, visual artists, and writers. These groups focused on collective research on topics of environmental and social concern, exposing the disfigurement of the territory by the chaotic growth of infrastructure, the sprawl from real estate development, and other key issues affecting the nation’s built and natural environment. The exposure to international trends promoted the experimentation with new media both in art and architecture. Marcel Duchamp’s Ready Made and the writings of the surrealists, known since the immediate post-war period, were supplemented by theories on the semiotic of the image introduced by the writings of Umberto Eco and by the translation of Walter Benjamin’s texts. Structuralism, especially provided artists with the methodology for translating perceptual images into visual concepts, allowing an escape from the backlash of the postwar period. It also provided the means to explore new ways of expression detached from the conventions of the circles of the “aesthetic clubs,” or from the movement of the socially engaged.
These theories and methodologies were fully absorbed into the work of most contemporary artists that included personalities tied to the emergence of Arte Povera, such a Franco Vaccari and Ugo Mulas, as well as by individuals in the circle of the conceptual artists of Germano Celant.17 The way political attitude reflected on contemporary art was, at this time, best exemplified by the classification of Italian photographers into two movements dubbed the Sheep and the Wolves. The Sheep belonged to the closed circles of aesthetic clubs, such as the Federazione Italiana Associazioni Fotografiche (FIAF). They followed Benedetto Croce’s tradition, strictly abiding to pure artistic expression, totally disengaging from social reality. The Sheep were constantly hunted down by the Wolves who represented their extreme opposite, and consisted of groups of individuals deeply engaged in social struggle and representative of the events of May 1968. The Wolves counteracted the Sheep, both in art and politics, acting on an extremist political ideology, denouncing the capitalist structure, and believing that the only acceptable use of photography was to produce socially and politically meaningful images.18 The debate between the Sheep and the Wolves was not limited to thematic choices for photographers but rather extended to all matters of visual language and ideology. It was carried on as a general attitude throughout the 1970s when it exemplified in “the representation of the real,” to later extrapolate into similar artistic currents. The dialogues among professionals belonging to different field stimulated new approaches to visual art, and these personalities often cooperated to experiment and test each other’s methodologies. An example representative of this type of cooperation was the work Aldo Rossi and photographer Luigi Ghirri produced together, which exemplified the way the semiotic of one’s architecture translated onto the other’s photographic narrative. Thus, throughout their several years of cooperation, Ghirri’s series of photographic images tested the communicative qualities of Rossi’s architecture.
Luigi Ghirri was a photographer and surveyor by profession, who developed a working methodology that reused photographs taken during territorial investigation in the body of his artwork. Thus, he reformulated the fragmented iconography of images taken during surveys into visual narratives articulating timeless chronicles that linked the conditions of the national territory to its history and identity. Ghirri’s photographic series also included work produced during collective projects in cooperation with other photographers. It consisted of photographic series, included in numerous exhibitions and art books that exemplified his dedication to research into a collective visual language through the evocation of memories and consciousness in response to particular images.19 Ghirri’s work was, therefore, representative of the changing tradition in visual culture in the decades following the immediate post war period, marking a departure in the representation of the real. It offered a depiction of the image of the nation in striking opposition to post-war reportage that traditionally pictured melancholic southerner widows dressed in back, glorious ancient ruins, and remote towns immersed in timeless atmosphere. It also fundamentally departed from the crude images of Neo-realist photography, offering a way for engaging in national issues fundamentally different from the radical and socially committed Wolves.20
The Structuralism of Luigi Ghirri’s Landscape Photography
Ghirri adopted a social anthropological approach initially aiming at recording modes of behavior through the representation of emblematic situations. He used very unusual viewpoints, explored urban surfaces, and made imaginary journeys by photographing the pages of a geographic atlas.21 He also employed a semiotic language to create chronicles of specific periods and places, including still life series emphasizing the potential stratified meaning of objects endowed by their contextualization. Ghirri formulated his photographic work in terms of “the great adventure of the gaze and thought.” His technique strayed away from contemporary technical and artistic canons of the late 1960s, virtually rejecting all academic tradition. He made an attempt at populism by portraying “the real” in color photography, employing the widespread technique of Polaroid snapshots, and exclusively using commercial printing processes.22 Many of his photographs became part of a visual study that included overlapping themes carried thru throughout his career.23 Ghirri overall proposed a methodology that he named “Minimal Journey” for representing the national landscape focusing on the investigation of marginal urban sites.24 With this method, he targeted common places of the Italian territory and culture that recalled images of the nation imprinted in the collective memory by centuries of artist’s paintings. He based this idea on his understanding of the disconnection of contemporary landscape photography from current ways of seeing, asserting that in Italy the subject to photograph had to be history rather than nature, because throughout time man had modified the whole territory, and nature in the traditional sense Ansel Adams had intended it was almost nonexistent.25
Ghirri especially used this approach to study the relationship between nature and the built environment, collecting and reconstructing fragmented views of peripheral public and private green areas, and cataloguing series of surfaces and details that make up the urban environment of cities.26 His conceptual research ended with the works Topographic-iconography and Geografia Immaginaria (1979-1980). Subsequently, in his latest period, Ghirri attempted an interpretation of the symbolic values of places and researched a photographic language to establish a dialectical relationship with the Genius Loci, to be used as an organizational method for the Gaze.27 This interest in the research of cultural contingencies, in the relationship between the natural and built environment, and in the Genius Loci was fueled by his participation to cultural surveys in various parts of the peninsula.28
Cooperation of Rossi and Ghirri: The Collective in Architecture Communicated with Photographs
In 1983, Ghirri was commissioned by the magazine Lotus International to create a photographic documentation of Aldo Rossi’s San Cataldo Cemetery in Modena (fig. 2).
Figure 2: The Ossuary in Winter, Cemetery of San Cataldo, Modena, Italy, 1986. Color Transparency. Ghirri’s photographs of the San Cataldo Cemetery marked his personal exploration into Rossi’s architecture, and are a deep, personal response to Rossi’s work. Rossi remarked on these photographs: “I see in them something I was looking for but never found.” See: Robert Elwall, Building with Light: the International History of Architectural Photography (London: Merrell, 2004), 204-205.
Ghirri admitted his initial skepticism towards architectural photography, which he regarded as the final stage of the architectural production process, and an attempt at creating a legitimized iconography for a stereotyped image of the building.29 These reservations were, however, wiped away by the unexpected vitality of Rossi’s work, and by the enthusiasm of the architect at the sight of his pictures that showed their extraordinary affinity in reading landscape and architectural forms.30 The project at San Cataldo turned into a long distance working relationship with Rossi that extended to several other projects. Ghirri described this experience in a monograph “for Aldo Rossi” published in his books It is Beautiful Here, Isn’t It and in Nothing Ancient Under the Sun.31 Of Rossi’s work, Ghirri recalled the soothing colors of the walls of the cemetery, the way the blue roof blended with the sky, and the way these colors changed at different times of the day. He especially admired the shape of the red cube of the ossuary that he often photographed from the window of his car while traveling on the highway, repeating this ritual at different times of the day and in different seasons (fig. 3).32
Figure 3: Comacchio, Argine Agosta, 1989. Color vintage print (37x50.7 cm). This photograph was taken at the Comacchio Embankment in Emilia Romagna. The fleeting light and the alluvial (and flooded) landscape are environmental conditions typical of this region. The river Po’ valley is characterized by flooding, dim lights, fog, frost, and by the constant struggle with the river. River floods here are both essential to agricultural production and a menace to the permanence of human settlements. The abandoned house in the flooded landscape, therefore, suggests the presence of humans while at the same time emphasizing their absence. This exemplifies the relationship between the built and natural environment and the “genius loci” explored in Ghirri’s latest work. This photograph appears in Ghirri’s book Il Profilo Delle Nuvole (1980-1892). Ghirri wrote: “every moment is redeemed by an opportunity for vagueness, of being taken back to phenomenology … emphasizing the indefinite phenomena of color and light suggesting the uncertainty that documentable events really exist. The artifices of vagueness, in the ancient terminology of Italian art, resemble, to mention a few, the phenomena of the clouds, the sky, and the horizons." See: Luigi Ghirri and Gianni Celati, Il Profilo delle Nuvole: Immagini di un Paesaggio Italiano (Milano: Feltrinelli, 1989), 126.
 
Ghirri explored every angle of this structure, taking photographs of its volumes and surfaces constantly modified by the shading of the shifting light. He used the punctured windows of the ossuary in the same manner as a camera’s viewfinder allowing views from different angles. From inside the building, the windows allowed an alternate view of the green lawn (lower window) and of the blue sky (upper window). Combined, these frames provided a balance between the inside and the outside of the building, and reinforced the relationship between the area of the ground and the opening of the sky.33 Ghirri recalled that certain images promptly came to his mind when he visualized the cemetery; including a painting by Fra Angelico where the dead rose up from a rectangular opening in the ground, pictures of the San Francisco’s earthquake showing the remains of shattered homes, and the simple architecture of Sassetta’s Lives of the Saints. These images, in turn, evoked other visions and events buried deep into his mind summoning both the feeling of familiarity and the awe of something undiscovered. “Familiar and yet mysterious air, an extraordinary fusion of recovering something known and coming upon something never seen before.”34
Rossi’s Cemetery of San Cataldo in Modena is a controversial project. A biographical work, unlike the majority of Rossi’s designs, this project externalizes the architect’s experience of a car accident that he expressed symbolically in the structure’s dimensional relationships evoking thoughts of death. The cubical shape of the ossuary looks like an unfinished structure visualizing a feeling of abandonment, often interpreted as the house of the “departed.”35 This is a potential example of Rossi’s way of connecting with significant memories of collective events and applying their essence to the design process through an association with comparable places. Rossi wrote: ”anyone who remembers European cities after the bombing of the last war retains an image of disemboweled houses where amid the rubble, fragments of familiar places remained standing, with their colors of faded wallpaper, laundry hanging suspended in the air, barking dogs the untidy intimacy of places. And always we could see the house of our childhood, strangely aged, present in the flux of the city.” In applications of types to the design process he made the association with other places he found compatible.36 Rossi’s architecture is often explained in terms of a return to the ‘familiar’ within the 1960s’s reemergence of typological and conceptual theory in opposition to the claimed loss of “continuity with the past” in previous decades of European modernism.37 This approach aimed at activating the association of memories to reconcile the experience of the eye and the body through the re-interpretation of architectural types suggesting intrinsic familiarity.38 Rossi had, therefore, intended for his architecture to be sympathetic with a collective experience through the repetition of common and familiar forms stressing the dialectic between people and their environment.39 Ghirri admired Rossi’s ability to align his personal experience with a type of collective reality through his designs. Which he found was expressed in the dialogue established with the surrounding landscape through the colors of the buildings, and by Rossi’s self-annihilation allowing the architectural space to assume a meaning through its use. Rossi looked at cities with an archaeological and surgical eye, believing that the collective subject was universally shared, and attempted to uncover this stable, timeless, and collective subject inside him by annihilating his bourgeois upbringing. He assumed that, by eliminating his own autobiographical self, he would be able to uncover his own collective subjectivity, one he assumed was shared by everyone.
Ghirri said that he “knew very few cases of an artist’s personal experience proliferating in this way within the existential reality of so many people.”40 He found that Rossi’s architecture responded to human’s desire for wonder and evoked “the memories, stories, connections, inventions, and appearance that constitute the various layers that make up things we perceive.” 
Thus there is also a joyous sense of wandering, magically, inside a wonderful toy, getting lost and finding one’s way amid the gears and little wheels, almost as if it was possible to understand the secret that arouses within us such a sense of surprise and amazement. And it is precisely this getting lost among the ruins of an architecture whose cubicles are colored by some indeterminate sea, or among the smokestacks of a factory, or in the stage sets of a hypothetical puppet theatre, or amid the fragments of a metaphysical memory, or in the photograph of a demolished building, or in the details of Fra Angelico, or in the faded memories of an Italian plaza, or in the aligned geometrical solids of a cathedral, or in the forgotten frames of a neorealist movie, or in the pitcher of milk and a coffee pot on the table-that Rossi’s work responds to our need and desire for wonder. In the end what fascinates me about his work is all this, but it is not a sweet memory, a happily evocative synthesis, nor are these the clever points of a Great Architect. Rather, they are the memories, stories, connections, inventions, and appearance that constitute the various layers of making things of our perceptions.41 
 
Therefore, Rossi’s architecture follows its own theory of persistence of forms and urban traces, “proposing a switch of the architectural subject from the place of production to that of reception.”42 Ghirri, in assuming the role of the viewer, experienced the way the architect’s building projects exemplified his theory. Massimo Mussini claimed that a strong similarity existed between Ghirri and Rossi’s work, especially in the way both visually organized their work according to geometrical grids in continuity with architectonic shapes, and with the surrounding world  (fig. 4).43
Figure 4: Studio of Aldo Rossi 1989-90 from the series Studio of Aldo Rossi, Milan. Color Print (8x10 cm).
The pictures Ghirri took of Rossi’s architectural projects are not the only testimonial of the affinity of their work. The series of images Ghirri took of the architect’s studio are also composed according to a methodology where the geometrical grids show continuity with the architectonic shapes and the surrounding world. In this image, the symbolic portrait of the architect is rendered by a stratification of visual information. Forms and colors characteristic of Rossi’s architecture are referenced: the closet is of the same shape repeated in many of Rossi’s designs, while the colors of the walls and furniture reference those used in the architectural rendering to the right of the photograph. See: Massimo Mussini, Luigi Ghirri: Through Photography (SI, 2001), 36-37.
For Mussini, Ghirri’s interpretation of reality translated into images conceived as an exercise for memory, and the photographer’s anthropological approach precluded a reading from his own personal experience intersecting with the collective through the stratification of signs.44 Mussini concluded that, although Ghirri’s work did not offer a good structuralist reading due to its limited perceptible connotation on reality and narrow ideological interpretation, his photographic interpretation of Rossi’s work was almost an endorsement of the architect’s exemplification of the collective through architectural typology.45
Endnotes
1  Massimo Mussini, Luigi Ghirri: Through Photography (SI, 2001), 31. Ghirri profusely quoted his texts with citations, like “little-tumb” and Alice (in Wonderland) of the fairy tales, to allow the viewer to find the right way to correctly interpret his photographs.
2  Maria Antonella Pelizzari, “Between Two Worlds.” Art Forum International  51, no. 8 ( 2013): 275. “Ghirri’s last house, in an abandoned farming estate was a microcosm where he envisioned projects that put photography at the center of a social and cultural revival.” 
3 Ghirri had witnessed “postwar recovery, the boost of “economic miracle,” the terrorism and societal breakdown between the late 1960s and 1980s known as the ‘anni di piombo,’ and the change from an agrarian culture to a postindustrial economy.” Maria Antonella Pelizzari, “Between Two Worlds.” Art Forum International 51, no.8 (2013); 275; Germano Celant, The European Iceberg: Creativity in Germany and Italy Today (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1985).
4 Vaccari recalls Ghirri early work pointing out the way these early photographs radically depart from the postwar reportage that imagined Italy both as folkloristic and melancholic-no southerner widows dressed in black and no glorious ruins from ancient history or remote little towns immersed in timeless atmosphere. Maria Antonella Pelizzari, “Between Two Worlds.” Art Forum International 51, no. 8 (2013): 275.
5 Ghirri conducted several analysis of the territory since the 1950s disfigured by real estate development and the chaotic growth of infrastructures and sprawl. He orchestrated projects like Viaggio in Italia (followed by other projects), consisting in the collective research of twenty photographers and the realization of the communalities of these issues in dialogue with architects, urban planners, economists, and writers. Maria Antonella Pelizzari, “Between Two Worlds.” Art Forum International 51, no.8 (2013): 279.
6 Luigi Ghirri, Germano Celant, Elena Re and Paola Ghirri It is Beautiful Here, Isn't It? (New York: Aperture, 2008), 108-140; Luigi Ghirri and Constantini Paolo, Giovanni Chiaramonte, Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole: Scritti e Immagini per un’Autobiografia. Societa’ Editrice Internazionale: Torino, 1997.
7 In the late 1960s with the ascendancy of arte povera and the circle of Germano Celant he became close to Franco Guerzoni, Carlo Creamaschi, Claudio Parmiggiani, and Giuliano della Casa. Maria Antonella Pelizzari, “Between Two Worlds,” Art Forum International 51, no.8 (2013): 276.
He also worked with artists Franco Vaccari and Ugo Mulas. (Vaccari Exhibition In Tempo Reale at the Venice Biennal and Mulas Verifiche). Luigi Ghirri et al, It is Beautiful Here, 108-140.
8 The formulation of his photographic work in terms of “the great adventure of the gaze and thought” was especially influenced by the 1969’s image of the Earth Photographed from the Apollo II, to which Ghirri frequently referred as the image containing all images of the world. Luigi Ghirri, “Biographic Notes,” in Ghirri et al.,  It is Beautiful Here, 108-140; Ghirri et al., Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 7-16.
9 Photography and the Technological Unconscious a study that focused on the camera automatic mechanism as a way to free the artist from cultural conditioning and subjectivity. Maria Antonella Pelizzari, “Between Two Worlds.” Art Forum International 51, no.8 (2013); 266-277.
10  Mussini, Luigi Ghirri, 8-12. Suffering from the cultural closure of fascism and the backlash of the post war period, Italian photographer were faced with the choice of either entering the closed circles of aesthetic clubs (eg. FIAF) or with that of joining the monopoly of the socially engaged.The “Sheep and the Wolves.” Photographers associating with artistic photography and tight to ‘Croce’s tradition, mainly concerned with aesthetic and detached from social reality were “the sheep.” The wolves on the other hand, often accused of wanting to destroy the sheep were those photographers coming from the tradition originated by the events of May 1968 in France, proposing the cause of political ideology and using photography as an instrument to denounce the capitalistic structure. According to the wolves all type of photography used for art and aesthetic should have been banned, and only the production of social and politically meaningful images was acceptable. This was a discourse not limited to thematic choices but also to ideology and visual language. 
11  Mussini, Luigi Ghirri, 12-13.
12   Mussini, Luigi Ghirri, 30. Ghirri had justified his method by saying that “the world appears in color to human perception and not black and white.” Ghirri et al., It is Beautiful Here, 108-140;  Ghirri et al., Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 7-11. This statement seemed though too oversimplified and misleading. 
13 Maria Antonella Pelizzari, “Between Two Worlds,” Art Forum International 51, no.8 (2013); 266-278;  Mussini, Luigi Ghirri, 30.
14  Mussini, Luigi Ghirri, 12-13.
15 Still Life -1977 is a series produced by wandering the stalls of the antique market in Modena’s Piazza Grande near offering a path of images and signs. Luigi Ghirri et al., “Still Life,” in Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 41-42.
In Identik-1976 he photographs objects in his apartment related to his own life at that particular time, creating a statement about his own identity and an intimate chronicle of a period and of a place. Ghirri et al., “Identikit,” in Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 39-40.
In Kodachrome he re-uses projects such as Paesaggi di Cartone e Fotografie del Periodo Iniziale developed over the previous eight years. Ghirri et al., Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 18-21.
16  Luigi Ghirri, “Biographic Notes,” in Luigi Ghirri et al., It is Beautiful Here, 108-140.His retrospective exhibition Vera Fotografia at the University of Parma organized fourteen narrative sequences structured around monographic projects with images migrating from one series to the next and articulating new connective possibilities. The exhibition was organized by Arturo Carlo Quinatavalle and Massimo Mussini and brings together projects such as: Fotografie del periodo iniziale (1970), Kodachrome (1970-78), Colazione sull’erba (1972-74), Catalogo (1970-79), Km 0.250 (1973), Diaframma II, 1/125, Luce Naturale (f-stop 11, 1/125, Natural Light 1970-79), Atlante (1973), Italia ailati (1971-79), Il Paese dei Balocchi (1972-79), Infinito (1974), In Scala (1977-78), Identikit (1976-79), Still Life (1975-79). 
17 These included personalities tied to the emergence of Arte Povera, such a Franco Vaccari and Ugo Mulas, as well as individuals in the circle of conceptual artists of Germano Celant such as Franco Guerzoni, Carlo Cremaschi, Claudio Parmiggiani, Giuliano della Casa, and Luigi Ghirri.
18  Mussini, Luigi Ghirri, 8-12. Suffering from the cultural closure of fascism and the backlash of the post war period, Italian photographer were faced with the choice of either entering the closed circles of aesthetic clubs (eg. FIAF) or with that of joining the monopoly of the socially engaged. The “Sheep and the Wolves.” Photographers associating with artistic photography and tight to ‘Croce’s tradition, mainly concerned with aesthetic and detached from social reality were “the sheep.” The wolves on the other hand, often accused of wanting to destroy the sheep were those photographers coming from the tradition originated by the events of May 1968 in France, proposing the cause of political ideology and using photography as an instrument to denounce the capitalistic structure. According to the wolves all type of photography used for art and aesthetic should have been banned, and only the production of social and politically meaningful images was acceptable. This was a discourse not limited to thematic choices but also to ideology and visual language. 
19 Luigi Ghirri et al., It is Beautiful Here, 108-140; see also Ghirri  et al., Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 1997.
20 Vaccari recalls Ghirri early work pointing out the way these early photographs radically depart from the postwar reportage that imagined Italy both as folkloristic and melancholic-no southerner widows dressed in black and no glorious ruins from ancient history or remote little towns immersed in timeless atmosphere. Maria Antonella Pelizzari, “Between Two Worlds.” Art Forum International 51, no.8 (2013): 275.
21  Mussini, Luigi Ghirri, 12-13.
22  Ibid., 30. 
23 His retrospective exhibition Vera Fotografia at the University of Parma organized fourteen narrative sequences structured around monographic projects with images migrating from one series to the next and articulating new connective possibilities. The exhibition was organized by Arturo Carlo Quinatavalle and Massimo Mussini and brings together projects such as: Fotografie del periodo iniziale (1970), Kodachrome (1970-78), Colazione sull’erba (1972-74), Catalogo (1970-79), Km 0.250 (1973), Diaframma II, 1/125, Luce Naturale (f-stop 11, 1/125, Natural Light 1970-79, Atlante (1973), Italia ailati (1971-79), Il Paese dei Balocchi (1972-79), Infinito (1974), In Scala (1977-78), Identikit (1976-79), Still Life (1975-79).Luigi Ghirri, “Biographic Notes,” in Luigi Ghirri et al., It is Beautiful Here, 108-140.
24 Maria Antonella Pelizzari, “Between Two Worlds.” Art Forum International 51, no.8 (2013); 266-282.
25  Mussini, Luigi Ghirri, 33-37. Ghirri knew that nature in the way Ansel Adams had intended it was almost nonexistent in Italy where man had modified the whole territory and the subject to photograph in Italy was history rather than nature. 
26 He was inspired by the relationship between nature and the built environment in the urban periphery (Luncheon on the grass-1972). This was followed, in 1973 by a series of surfaces and details making up the urban environment (walls, doors, windows, and shutters). Luigi Ghirri, “Biographic Notes,” in Luigi Ghirri et al., It is Beautiful Here, 108-140. In Vedute and Italia Ailati, produced between 1970 and 1975, Ghirri photographed the edges of ancient cities; see  Ghirri et al., “Italia ailati,” in Niente di Nuovo Sotto il Sole, 31-32.
27 In 1980 Ghirri produced Still-Life and Geografia Immaginaria (1979-80). In this period he curates and holds several exhibitions in Italy, Europe and the US. Some of these, such as the traveling exhibition Paris-Rome, included in the group Ils se Dissent Peintres ils se Dissent Photographes curated by Suzanne Page’ and Michael Nurids any explored the boundaries between art and photography and included work by Christian Boltanski, Hans-Peter-Feldmann, Gilbert and George, Giuseppe Penone, and Cindy Sherman. In 1982 he find resonances with his own ideas in Christian Norberg-Shultz’s essay “Genious Loci: Paesaggio, Ambiente, Architecture” Published by Electa in 1979. The concept of “genius loci” or “spirit of place” is the meaning of residence, addressing the ambiguity and complexity of existence. Luigi Ghirri et al., It is Beautiful Here, 108-140.
28  Ibid. Ghirri completes Topographic-Iconographic (1978-82) and then returns to southern Italy for an assignment for ‘Region’ of Puglia (Cento Immagini per la Puglia and Tra Albe e Tramonti). 
29  Ghirri et al., “Per Aldo Rossi,” in Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 127-129.
30  Ibid.; Mussini, Luigi Ghirri, 37.
31 Ghirri worked with Rossi in several occasions, always through long distant cooperation. He described this experience in a monograph “for Aldo Rossi” published in his books It is Beautiful Here, Isn't It and in Nothing Ancient Under the Sun.
32  Ghirri et al., “Per Aldo Rossi,” in Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 127-129.
33  Ibid.
34  “Familiar and yet mysterious air, an extraordinary fusion of recovering something known and coming upon something never seen before.” Quoted in ibid. 
35 Gianni Braghieri, Aldo Rossi: Works and Projects (Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili, S.A,1991), 50-60.
36  Aldo Rossi, A Scientific Autobiography (Cambridge Mass: MIT Press, 1981), 22; see also Jean La Marche, The Familiar and the Unfamiliar in Twentieth-century Architecture (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 57-58. Rossi wrote: ”anyone who remembers European cities after the bombing of the last war retains an image of disemboweled houses where amid the rubble, fragments of familiar places remained standing, with their colors of faded wallpaper, laundry hanging suspended in the air, barking dogs the untidy intimacy of places. And always we could see the house of our childhood, strangely aged, present in the flux of the city.” In application of types to the design process he made the association with other places he found compatible. 
37 Jean La Marche, The Familiar and the Unfamiliar in Twentieth-century Architecture (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 7.
38  Ibid., 57.
39  Ibid., 75-77.
40  Rossi looked at cities with an archaeological and surgical eye, believing that the collective subject was universally shared, and attempted to uncover this stable, timeless, and collective subject inside him by annihilating his bourgeois childhood. He assumed that by eliminating his own autobiographical aspect to uncover his own collective subjectivity, one that he assumed was shared by everyone.
Ghirri said that he “new very few cases of an artist’s personal experience proliferating in this way within the existential reality of so many people. See Ghirri et al., “Per Aldo Rossi,”  in Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 127-129; see also Ghirri et al., It is Beautiful Here isn't it?, 126-127.
41  Ghirri et al., “Per Aldo Rossi,” in Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole, 127-129: “And thus there is also a joyous sense of wandering, magically, inside a wonderful toy, getting lost and finding one’s way amid the gears and little wheels, almost as if it were possible to understand the secret that arouses within us such a sense of surprise and amazement. And it is precisely this getting lost among the ruins of an architecture whose cubicles are colored by some indeterminate sea, or among the smokestacks of a factory, or in the stage sets of a hypothetical puppet theatre, or amid the fragments of a metaphysical memory, or in the photograph of a demolished building, or in the details of Fra Angelico, or in the faded memories of an Italian plaza, or in the aligned geometrical solids of a cathedral, or in the forgotten frames of a neorealist movie, or in the pitcher of milk an a coffee pot on the table-that Rossi’s work responds to our need and desire for wonder. In the end what fascinates me about his work is all this, but it is not a sweet memory, a happily evocative synthesis, nor are these the clever points of a Great Architect. Rather, they are the memories, stories, connections, inventions, and appearance that constitute the various layers of making things of our perceptions.” See also Ghirri et al., It is Beautiful Here, 126-127.
42 Mario Gandelsonas, “The City as Object of Architecture,” Assemblage 37 (1998):134.
43  Ibid., 2-26.
44  Ibid.
45 Ibid.
Bibliography
Braghieri, Gianni. Aldo Rossi: Works and Projects. Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili, S.A, 1991.
Celant, Germano. The European Iceberg: Creativity in Germany and Italy Today. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1985.
Elwall, Robert. Building with Light: the International History of Architectural Photograph. London: Merrell, 2004.
Gandelsonas, Mario. “The City as Object of Architecture.” Assemblage 37 (1998): 129-144.
Ghirri, Luigi and Gianni Celati. Il Profilo delle Nuvole: Immagini di un Paesaggio Italiano. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1989.
Ghirri, Luigi and Germano Celant, Elena Re, Paola Ghirri. It is Beautiful Here, Isn't It? New York: Aperture, 2008.
Ghirri, Luigi, Paolo Constantini, and Giovanni Chiaramonte. Niente di Antico Sotto il Sole: Scritti e Immagini per un’Autobiografia. Societa’ Editrice Internazionale: Torino, 1997.
La Marche, Jean. The Familiar and the Unfamiliar in Twentieth-century Architecture. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003.
Mussini, Massimo. Luigi Ghirri: Through Photography. SI, 2001.
Pelizzari, Maria Antonella. “Between Two Worlds.” Art Forum International 51, no. 8 (2013): 268-282.
© 2017   ArtHistory.us.   User contributions licensed under CC-BY-NC 4.0 with Attribution Required.