“It is the variety of Luigi Ghirri’s work, the eclectic aspect, that most surprises and excites me. I cannot necessarily tell that they are all taken by the same person — which is a compliment! With Ghirri, it’s not simply the subject matter that distinguishes each of his series, it’s the whole idea of the whole picture. Everything. His work is remarkably disparate, and there are moments — many — when it just hits.”
William Eggleston on the work of Luigi Ghirri
Born in Scandiano in Northern Italy, photographer Luigi Ghirri’s greatest gift to the world was his ‘Atelier Morandi’ series. In it, Ghirri photographed the atelier of Giorgio Morandi, an artist known for his milky pastelle-colored paintings of vases and pottery. In the resulting photographs, the world of Morandi, described as a solitary and meditative figure, is captured with astonishing charme.
The series presents Morandi’s old atelier, which has been left untouched since Morandi’s death. The photographs, taken between Fall 1989 and Summer 1990, possess an eery quality, as if Morandi were still there in spirit, looking over Ghirri’s shoulders. It is an extraordinary collection of photos that allow a short glimpse into the master painter’s soul.
In his quiet, unhasty images, Ghirri paid attention not only to the countless objects and their alignment in Morandi’s atelier but also captured, for example, the subtle play of yellow light above a wall splattered with paint. Though taken years after Mondari’s death, the photos truly are a collaboration between the two artists, and since their publication in 2002, the photographs have garnered attention not only in photography circles but throughout the art world, too.
Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) was initially influenced by the work of Eugene Atget and Walker Evans and has photographed in color in Europe long before the birth of the New Color movement in America in the 1970s. After publishing his first photobook ‘Kodachrome’ in 1978, Ghirri spent the 1980s focusing on architecture and Italy’s landscapes. Tragically, after photographing the ‘Atelier Morandi’, Ghirri died while preparing the photographs for publication, at the young age of 49.
Luigi photographed landscape images under the crystal-clear light of his beloved Northern Italy. Luigi also left behind a literacy legacy with his writings on the history of photography and the theory of photography in a published photobook titled ‘Lezioni di Fotografia’. This work was the introduction to the world of Ghirri for William Eggleston, and film director Wim Wenders ranked him among the ‘greatest photographic masters of the 20th century’. He is a photographer continued to be adored by many in the west to this day. His work is also known in Japan as it is featured in a book of collected works presented by Atsuko Suga, the noted essayist of Italian culture and translator of Italian literature. There are people who may have set eyes upon the book cover, but there is a strong likelihood that they do not know of Morandi or Ghirri. With a style filled with a stillness where time has stopped, it reminds you perhaps of a sense of yearning or nostalgia of something you have seen somewhere before.
Luigi Ghirri, who in addition to his wonderfully clear photographs of beloved Northern Italian landscapes left behind his essay collection on photography theory and history (‘The Complete Essays 1973-1991’), is still adored by artists and critics today, including the likes of William Eggleston (see the quote at the beginning of this article) and German film director Wim Wenders, who called him ‘one of the greatest photographic artists of the 20th century’.
Studied at San Francisco Art College after high school, moved to New York and curated exhibitions and edited photography collections. He returned to Japan in 2011. He has recently published two books with writings about art and photography in Europe and America (not yet available in English).