zondag 23 juli 2017

Views & Reviews Unlovely but very Beautiful A New Map of Italy The Photographs of Guido Guidi Photography

A New Map of Italy.
The Photographs of Guido Guidi.
Photographs by Guido Guidi.
Loosestrife Editions, 2011. 120 pp., 64 illustrations, 10½x12".

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 by:
Martin Parr
Horacio Fernández
Adam Bell
Marco Delogu

Italian photographer, Guido Guidi began experimenting in the late 1960s with pseudo-documentary images that interrogated photography’s objectivity. Influenced by Neorealist film and Conceptual art, in the 1970s he began investigating Italy’s man-altered landscape. Working in marginal and decayed spaces with a (8”×10”) camera, Guidi creates dense sequences intended as meditations on the meaning of landscape, photography, and seeing. Later he investigated the life and death of modernist architecture, with projects on Scarpa, van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. Photography for Guidi is something autobiographical. It is synonymous with inhabiting, and the camera is the instrument that allows him to observe, appropriate and collect what lies beyond his doorstep.

From the essay by Gerry Badger: “What seems certain is that Guido Guidi’s “ugly” photographs, as he calls them, are original, complicated in their simplicity, artful and deeply felt. They may be unlovely, but-they are also very beautiful.”

Guido Guidi / Veramente
past / 14 June 2014 / 7 September 2014

Guido Guidi (born in 1941, in Cesena, north-eastern Italy) had originally wanted to be an architect or a painter, but during his studies at the University of Venice he began to develop an interest in photography. By the mid-1960s he had devoted himself entirely to photography. Guidi directs his camera towards urban architecture, industrial landscapes, and periurban environments in an entirely original way. His approach is poetic and attentive, and could also be said to be descriptive in nature. His photographic work has given rise to a rich visual archive of the landscape of Italy, both natural and man-made. In 2013 Guido Guidi won the prestigious PixSea Oeuvre Award, resulting in his international breakthrough.

First-ever retrospective
For Guido Guidi photography is a way of life and the extension of his gaze. In the early years of his career Guidi shot in black-and-white, making series that were strongly influenced by the conceptual art of the period. In the ’80s and ’90s he started using a large-format camera, shifting his focus towards landscape photography. It marked a turning point in his career, after which he would devote increasing attention to his own, innovative approach to photographing his surroundings. The same interest characterized the work of his contemporaries –  including Luigi Ghirri, Mario Cresci and Olivo Barbieri – who, like Guidi, were inspired by the work of Walker Evans and the American photography of previous decades. Veramente is the first-ever retrospective of the 40-year career of this leading Italian photographer, showing Guidi’s experimental black-and-white photos from the 1970s alongside the colour series that have become emblematic of his oeuvre, such as In between cities, A new map of Italy, and Preganziol.

Architecture and photography
The young Guido Guidi studied architecture at the IUAV (Università di Venezia) – an institution founded in 1926 and specialized in architecture and design – and then attended the Corso Superiore di Disegno Industriale in Venice. His teachers included such famous architects as Carlo Scarpa and Luigi Veronesi, whose work has continued to strongly influence his own.

As a photographer of the urban environment, Guidi concentrated on the changes he saw taking place in the contemporary landscape. He wanted to document the Italy nobody knew; life in the margins of Italian culture at its urban ‘edgelands’, border areas that defied conventional description and for which a new idiom needed to be invented. Working outside the constraints of an established viewpoint, and with no prescribed iconography to follow, Guido Guidi developed an entirely original vision of this environment. He looks at it as if he were ‘to one side of his subject, or in its shadow’, as Marta Dahó writes in the exhibition catalogue.

Guidi’s earlier photographs were mostly of his own surroundings: Emilia-Romagna, Ravenna, and Porto Marghera, the industrial area close to Venice.  However, from 1993 onwards he undertook travels through Europe, in the company of the architect Marco Venturi, to document the expansion of the European Union and its newest urban areas. Over the course of three two-week journeys they travelled from Saint Petersburg to Fisterra in Spain. The journey led, in 2003, to the publication of In between cities. Un itinerario attraverso L’Europa 1993–1996. In this series of photographs – a number of which are included in this exhibition – we can already see Guidi’s interest in the marginal: the fragmented, minimalist facets of a landscape in continual motion.

Guido Guidi’s close relationship with architecture can be felt in much of his photography, such as the series he made of the Brion Tomb sanctuary built between 1970 and 1978 by the architect Carlo Scarpa, who had also given Guidi lessons in photography. Guidi has spent years photographing this monument at different moments during the day and in different seasons, using his camera to explore the building’s fundamental principles and the glimpses it affords of the relationship between time and space.

An oeuvre in books
Outside Italy Guido Guidi’s oeuvre has remained comparatively unknown. His photo books, however, are greatly sought after, and form part of the exhibition. The most important titles include Varianti (1995), which spotlights the photographer’s early years, and the monograph A New Map of Italy (2011). A number of photographs from both these titles have also been included in the exhibition. Guidi prefers not to photograph Italy’s familiar holiday destinations, but instead its ‘ordinary’ spots. He focuses on everyday reality, and avoids the country’s stereotypical folkloric and historic subjects. In doing so Guido Guidi has succeeded in creating a magnificent and entirely personal oeuvre – one that has set the tone for many other photographers.

The exhibition is accompanied by the catalogue Veramente, containing an introduction by the exhibition curator Agnès Sire and an article by the photographic historian Marta Dahó.
Guido Guidi, Veramente / texts by Agnès Sire and Marta Dahó / published by MACK / 172 pp. / isbn 978 190 794660 8

MACK published Preganziol in 1983. This original photographic series, made thirty years ago in an abandoned garden house in Preganziol as a study of light, time and environment, has also been included in the exhibition.

A NEW MAP OF ITALY: The Photographs of Guido Guidi
by Adam Bell
A New Map of Italy: The Photographs of Guido Guidi
(Loosestrife Editions, 2011)

Covering the last 20 years, Guido Guidi’s new book A New Map of Italy is an excellent introduction to a seminal Italian photographer. Edited and designed by the photographer John Gossage, A New Map of Italy draws from Guidi’s vast archive of images and past books, but also contains many previously unpublished photographs. Like his influential forefather and near contemporary Luigi Ghirri, Guidi is a photographer whose gritty Neorealist-influenced documentary work is little known and underappreciated in the United States. Working in the tradition of Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, and Stephen Shore, Guidi’s large format color photographs are full of surprises and pictorial sophistication.

Using an 8 by 10 view camera, Guidi’s work is largely concerned with the contemporary Italian social landscape, eschewing the picturesque and romantic. For the past several decades, Guidi has photographed the liminal and man-altered landscapes of contemporary Italy and Europe. While this is a well-trod (and often cliché) subject for photographers, Guidi’s work is distinct and compelling. Along with portraits of strangers and friends, A New Map of Italy focuses on the rugged back roads, trash heaps, scratched walls, dilapidated villas, and abandoned construction sites of Italy to form a complex portrait of a country in decline and flux. Deadpan, weatherworn, and elegant, Guidi’s photographs offer a grim metaphor for the state of Italy.

The view camera that Guidi employs is an awkward but highly precise instrument. Prized for its hyper-real clarity and rich tonal rendition, it also allows users to manipulate the camera’s plane of focus and correct convergent lines in architecture. Heavy, cumbersome and notoriously difficult to master, the camera is handled effortlessly by Guidi, resulting in images that resemble casual snapshots. At the same time, Guidi’s pictures are visually astute and complex—the minor distortions and shifts of focus subtly drawing our attention to the act of looking. Even Guidi’s restrained palette, a muted sun-bleached cyan tone, seems to defy the camera’s intended purposes and matches the images’ restrained, utilitarian aesthetic.

Measuring roughly 10 by 12 inches, A New Map of Italy’s elegant design allows the photographs to take center stage. The book’s end-pages are an especially nice touch. On both the front and back endpages are paired photographs of walls and corners—first leading readers in and around a corner into the book, and then ushering them out at the end. The book also contains two essays by Gerry Badger and Marlene Klein. Badger is one of the preeminent photography critics, and his essay is especially worthwhile. Too often essays in photo books are disposable, pedantic filler. Fortunately, Badger is insightful, astute, and thankfully, free of academic or theoretical jargon.

Quoting Lincoln Kirstein’s afterword in Walker Evans’s seminal book, American Photographs, Badger draws a direct parallel with Evans’s work of the 1930s. As Kirstein wrote, “here are the records of an age before an imminent collapse. [Evans’s] pictures exist to testify to the symptoms of waste and selfishness that caused the ruin and to salvage whatever was splendid for the future reference of survivors.” Like Evans, Guidi’s images are brutally honest, but also deeply affectionate. At the same time that they indict the “symptoms of waste and selfishness,” they celebrate the quotidian beauty of the land and its people.

Another major influence in Guidi’s work—along with Italian Neorealist film, Conceptual Art, and other large-format documentary photographers—is the photographer Luigi Ghirri, a towering figure in Italian photography whose influence can be seen throughout Guidi’s work. The two not only share a similar palette, but also an appreciation for their native Italy’s quotidian beauty. The book’s use of the map can be read as a nod to Ghirri, who not only photographed and loved maps, but also produced a body of work on the subject entitled Atlante.

As the book’s title and the cover photo of a faded map suggest, the work is a remapping, or alternative mapping, of modern Italy. Dense and complex, Guidi’s self-professedly “ugly” pictures provide a deeply nuanced exploration of the contemporary Italian landscape. The broken landscape, buildings, and solemn portraits of Guidi’s work form a narrative of contemporary Italy in flux, but rooted in the commonplace. As Italy and its European neighbors plunge into economic and political turmoil, Guidi’s images point beyond the mythic past or turbulent present to an honest and gritty reality of his subjects and the country he loves.

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