1943 – 1992
Luigi Ghirri was born on 5 January in Scandiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia in 1943. He moved to Modena in 1960s, where he study geometry and obtained his degree in 1962. Ghirri’s artistic career as photographer started in the early seventies, when he explored through his camera the surrounding environment of the city of Modena, photographing landscapes, people in their day by day activities and objects, such as posters, signs, shop-windows and items found on the street, developing in this way his first body of works called
Paesaggi di cartone (Cardboard Landscapes). In 1972, Ghirri met the artist Franco Vaccari, with whom he considered the role of photography in contemporary art, theorizing on the necessity for the artist to find both the rational and emotional capacity of deciphering information gather through perception and turning it into a ‘visual thought’.
This concept was the supporting structure for the creation of the series Colazione sull’erba (Breakfast on the grass) a series of urban scenes focusing on the relationship between nature and artificiality. In the same year, Luigi Ghirri had his first exhibition in Modena, in the hall of the Canalgrande Hotel, called Luigi Ghirri – fotografie 1970-71, a selection of work made in collaboration with Franco Vaccari.
In 1973 he completed the series ‘Atlante’ – a photo essay forming a journey of discovery through the pages of an atlas – and in 1974 he quitted his job as surveyor to become a professional photographer. The same year he exhibited his series Paesaggi di cartone at Galleria Diaframma in Milan and the series ‘Atlante’ at the Neikug gallery in NY.
In 1975, Ghirri is chosen as “discovery” of the year by Time Life and Ghirri’s portfolio is published in the prestigious ‘Time-Life Photography Year’.
In 1977 he founded the publishing house Punto e Virgola, together with Paola Borgonzoni, Ghirri’s future wife, and Giovanni Chiaramonte. In 1978 Ghirri published for Punto e Virgola his book Kodacrome, a collection of pictures of this first 8 years as a photographer, mainly from his series Paesaggi di Cartone and Fotografie del periodo iniziale. In the same year he exhibited at the Venice Biennale in a collective exhibition called ‘L’Immagine Provocata’.
In 1979, the University of Parma dedicated a solo exhibition curated by Arturo Carlo Quintavalle and Massimo Mussini entitled Vera Fotografia (True Photography) – an exhibition-cum-anthology in which 700 photographs were exhibited. In 1980, Ghirri took part in the collective exhibition Ils se disent peintres, ils se disent photographes, curated by Suzanne Pagé e Michel Nuridsany, that explored the middle ground between art and photography and saw Ghirri’s photographs displayed along those of international artists such as Christian Boltanski, Hans Peter Feldmann, Gilbert and George, Giuseppe Penone and Cindy Sherman.
In 1982, Ghirri is invited to exhibiting in ‘Fotographie 1922-1982’ at Photokina in Cologne and, the following year he is appointed by Lotus International magazine to make a photo reportage of Aldo Rossi’s San Cataldo Cemetery in Mondena. From now on, Luigi Ghirri’s works focused on the analysis of both architecture and the Italian landscape. He receives assignments from public and private institutions: he photographs thermal stations for the region of Emilia Romagna, the Versailles castle and gardens for the French ministry of Culture, the region of Modena for the Italian Touring Club, and the Po Valley for the group Riello.
His extensive and in-depth analysis on the theme of landscape reached his zenith towards the end of the 80’s, when his series of works entitled Paesaggio Italiano (Italian landscape) and Il profile delle nuvole (Clouds’ profile) are published.
In 1991, Ghirri completed his two-years work on Giorgio Morandi – a series of photos of the artist’s studio. This will be Luigi Ghirri’s last work. He died untimely the following year of heart attack at the age of 49.