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Luigi Ghirri’s Brilliant Photographic Puzzles - The New York Times
"I look at Luigi Ghirri’s work daily: There’s a postcard reproduction of one of his photographs on my fridge. It depicts four women, turned away from us and toward a mountainous landscape. They could be taking in an actual vista — the perspective is correct — but the mountains and their intervening lakes have text superimposed on them, and so we realize the women are standing before an image of a landscape, either a poster or a mural. Ghirri took the photograph in Salz­burg, Austria, in 1977. I find it reassuring, amusing (that slight stutter in parsing it), simultaneously simple and complex in ways that are difficult to explain."

"The world, as Ghirri sees it, is full of images, and a picture of the world must also contain many images of images. The pictures he made, haunted by this notion of an all-encompassing view, often seem like fragments of something too complex to assemble into one coherent whole. He writes: “A key element in this work was perhaps the fondness I’ve always had for places and objects that seem to contain everything: encyclopedias, museums, maps.” There is the defamiliarization of scale that comes with such views. Ghirri compares his vision to that in “Gulliver’s Travels” or “Alice in Wonderland,” an imaginative space in which it’s hard to tell what’s very large, or what’s very small. Curiously, within the dreamlike logic of his pictures, the difference hardly matters. “The world might appear at first through a telescope, and then under a microscope, or perhaps through a set of binoculars that can be used to both to magnify and minimize. In some photo­graphs we can make out the building blocks of fables, the supporting framework and the scaffolding which props up this ‘land’; and yet, rather than exposing the tricks or taking away the magic, they contribute to the illusion.”

When we see, in a picture by Ghirri, a railing that spells out the word MARE (“sea”) overlooking the sea, the feeling of being in a fable is intensified, not lessened. The photo contains two islands, one closer to us and seen only in part, the other misty in the far distance. There’s a tiny ship, toylike, just under the R in MARE. The horizon line is indistinct, evanescent. And in the foreground, the railing, where it curves at the M, has been dinged. These little touches, these grace notes, testify to the intensity of Ghirri’s seeing and his love for the muted but multi­dimensional drama the world contains."

"Intriguing work naturally summons analogy. In describing the artists who have guided him, Ghirri mentions Evans, but also Louis Daguerre, Diane Arbus, Jorge Luis Borges, Fernando Pessoa, Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan, among many others. I find no mention of the American poet Elizabeth Bishop in Ghirri’s essays, but his work speaks to me in a way similar to hers. And if they have a shared language, it is a language Italo Calvino speaks, too. All three create a folkloric atmosphere; all have the gift of working in miniature without being trivial; all engage, very gently, the surreal comedy of the world looked at peculiarly.

Bishop was joyously obsessed with maps, and the four collections of poetry published in her lifetime, not counting “The Complete Poems” (1969), all made territorial allusions: “North and South” (1946), “A Cold Spring” (1955), “Questions of Travel” (1965) and “Geography III” (1976). These titles remind me of the abundance of globes, atlases, maps, monuments, tourist sites, road signs and postcards in Ghirri’s work. When I read Bishop’s “12 O’Clock News,” for instance, in which the objects arrayed on the writer’s desk — the gooseneck lamp, the typed sheet, the envelopes, the ink bottle — become stand-ins for a mythical landscape, I can’t help thinking of the still lifes of vases, jars and books that Ghirri photographed in the painter Giorgio Morandi’s studio. A section of Bishop’s poem, marked “typewriter,” reads in part as follows:

“The escarpment that rises abruptly from the central plain is in heavy shadow. ... What endless labor those small, peculiarly shaped terraces represent! And yet, on them the welfare of this tiny principality depends.”

What Bishop evokes here, and what Ghirri’s work confirms, is a sympathy with the lives of objects, the way the little things that surround us vibrate with accreted knowledge, as if they had been taking note of human behavior all along. In one essay, Ghirri writes about Daguerre’s ability to “awaken the inanimate world through light.” When an artist praises another artist, I pay attention: It often reveals what the one who praises would wish to be, or already is. Without question, Luigi Ghirri’s pictures awaken the inanimate world through light. This is why their magic never palls, and it is why I have kept “Salisburgo, 1977” on my fridge for going on two years now. To “get” Ghirri’s photographs, in the sense of untangling the initial confusion about what they depict, does not exhaust their poetry. His photographs play with scale, symmetry, tourism and travel; they betray a love of the land and a wish to care for it; they return us to the schoolroom, restoring the enchantment of knowledge without naïveté; and they somehow cut through the noise of our image-saturated environment to become, as he wrote, “passwords for the ineffable.”"
tejucole  photography  maps  mapping  luigighirri  2016  elizabethbishop  louisdaguerre  dianearbus  borges  fernandopessoa  rycooder  bobdylan  italocalvino  objects 
july 2016 by robertogreco

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