Luigi Ghirri

I am currently ‘reading’  Pensare per immagini, the catalogue of the latest exhibition dedicated to Luigi Ghirri’s work. Seen from the vantage point of the digital era, his was a truly otherworldly photography: simple, immediate, at times surprisingly imperfect, yet certainly very powerful. A photography that always lured the viewer to what was not in the picture, the untold context. Yet to think in pictures is what we all do with our smartphone in the pocket, immersed as we are in a world of photographed images to an extent that not even Sontag could foresee.

“The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own” (Sontag).

Ghirri: so anachronistic yet also so incredibly ‘digital’.

I stumbled upon this picture of his, in Pensare per immagini:

Ghirri, Modena 1975. From Still Life. C-Print

Ghirri, Modena 1975. From Still Life. C-Print

The fly in the bottom left corner is what makes this picture a photograph: a flying moment, a fly resting briefly on its oasis (in fact, it rests on the yellow side, which is, according to what is written on the brown side, the oasi).

Very, very shamelessly, it reminded me of a picture I took with a smartphone.

iPhone 4, f2.8, 1/15, ISO 320

Again, two colours, one fly. Portrait orientation instead of landscape, digital against film.

Ghirri was an artist, I am certainly not.
Ghirri’s photography was almost fetishistic of the medium, of the film (one of his first collections was called Kodakchrome). One could not think of a photography farther from digital and smartphones than his. Yet something of his artistically calculated superficiality and immediacy returns in all smartphone photography, maybe it is the return of the flâneur, no longer equipped with walking stick and Kodak Brownie—or rolleiflex—but immersed in the chaos of the contemporary city, equipped with a last-generation smartphone.

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