Luigi Ghirri

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“Images are enigmas
that may be solved
with the heart”

When asked what photography meant for him, Ghirri (Scandiano, province of Reggio Emilia, 1943 – Roncocesi, 1992) would reply by quoting these words of Giordano Bruno, which seemed closest to his way of understanding images.

Ghirri moves through the labyrinth-enigma with the awe of a child standing before the great work of art that the world is, and with a camera as the tool necessary for his poetic description of it. It is exposed to the marvel of his gaze before the unveiling of the world in terms of presence, and in the artistic gesture of photographing, it seeks a window capable of showing and considering that world.

Luigi Ghirri
(Luzern), 1971, From Kodachrome, 1971 ca.
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
11.7 x 8 cm
COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri

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Luigi Ghirri
Arles, 1978, From Still Life, 1978
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
30 x 20 cm (35.5 x 24 cm)
COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri, VSM 70 018

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Another citation he was very fond of was one by Edgard Morin: “Photographs express the powerless desire to express the inexpressible.”

Few artists, few photographers like him have ever been possessed by such an extraordinary desire. When we look at his images, we are surprised by a two-sided aspect: on one hand there’s a certain sense of melancholy to them, a delicate nostalgia, at times infinite, piercing, agonising (in particular certain fairground rides on the beach, or winter landscapes in which the phantom of fog tends to swallow up everything); a thirst for the infinite, for eternity, for a joy both present and absent, tangible and yet denied, such as only some of the most refined pieces of music by Schumann and Chopin are able to offer.

Luigi Ghirri
Modena, 1978, From Still life, 1978
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
24.5 x 36.6 cm (30 x 40.5 cm)
On the white right side is signed “Ghirri 79” and on the left “Modena 30/30” by the artist. COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri

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Luigi Ghirri
Modena, 1979, From Still life, 1979
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
31 x 22.6 cm (30 x 40 cm)
COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri, VSM 64 018

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Luigi Ghirri
Quimper, 1972, From Kodachrome, 1972
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
12.5 x 17.4 cm (32 x 32 cm)
Signed and dated lower right. From Portfolio Luigi Ghirri per Cantergiani & C. Assicurazioni S.p.A. – Modena, 1977. Printed in edition of 300. COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri

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On the other hand, their shapes, colours and metaphysical intertwining show themselves to be the very finest heralds of the appearance of a paradise both present and impossible. Photography is like “a great adventure in the world of thought and the gaze; a magical toy that miraculously manages to join together our adult awareness and the fairy-tale realm of childhood, a continuous journey through the great and small, through the variations, through the kingdom of illusions and appearances, the labyrinthine and specular dimension of multitude and simulation.” Thus, according to Ghirri, this marvellous instrument, “beyond any critical or intellectual explanation, beyond all the negative aspects that may well be attributed to it,” was and still is “a formidable visual language with which to nurture this desire for the infinite that may be found within each and every one of us.”

Luigi Ghirri
Napoli 1981, From Paesaggio italiano, 1981
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
19.5 x 29.5 cm
COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri

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Luigi Ghirri
Bressanone, 1979, From Still Life, Geografia immaginaria, 1979
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
26 x 38 cm (28 x 40 cm)
COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri, VSM 63 018

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Luigi Ghirri
Rotterdam, 1973, From Kodachrome, Paesaggi di cartone, 1973
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
19.2 x 13 cm (24 x 18.9 cm)
COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri, VSM 35 018

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Luigi Ghirri
Modena, 1973, From Kodachrome, 1973
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
24.8 x 16.3 cm (40 x 30 cm)
COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri, VSM 38 018

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Luigi Ghirri
Modena, 1978, From Still Life, 1978
C-print from negative 24 x 36 mm
20 x 30 cm (35.4 x 24 cm)
COA by Archivio Luigi Ghirri, VSM 69 018

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