Luigi Ghirri

Book Review Puglia – Luigi Ghirri

© Luigi Ghirri

Mack presents “Puglia Tra albe e tramonti” by Luigi Ghirri, a captivating ode to the southern Italian region.

─── by Josh Bright, April 25, 2024
  • Perhaps Italy’s most prominent contemporary photographers, Luigi Ghirri is renowned for his chromatic portrayal of everyday scenes across his homeland, often playing with light, scale and perspective to create absorbing compositions imbued with a somewhat dreamy ambiance.

    Born in the northeastern town of Scandiano in 1953, Ghirri initially worked as a surveyor and graphic designer before fully embracing photography in the early 1970s.

    While much of his work centered on a thirty-mile radius around his home, he frequently returned to a particular subject throughout his career: the southeastern Italian region of Puglia.

    Color photography by Luigi Ghirri. Man & dog in front of coastline
    ‘Isole Tremiti, 1985’

    Were you to search for Puglia online, you’d likely find photographs of Alberobello (a UNESCO World Heritage site) specifically its distinct whitewashed buildings with conical roofs, or the beautiful city of Bari with its cliff-top buildings overlooking the azure waters of the Mediterranean.

    Ghirri, in contrast, explores more peripheral zones – which he was drawn to throughout his career – quiet plazas, and alleyways, perhaps hidden away from the throngs of tourists; an empty table in a beachside café, a corner of a local barbershop.

    Color photography by Luigi Ghirri.
    ‘53 Bitonto, 1990’
    Color photography by Luigi Ghirri. Green car and tree in front of stone buildings Bitonto, Puglia, Italy
    ‘Bitonto, 1990’

    Ghirri’s affection for Puglia is palpable. He first visited the region in 1982, and found a captivating muse for his unique minimalist perspective. Over the following decade, he would make periodic returns, capturing its essence and showcasing his work there, deepening his bond with the region, and forming a close circle of friends, many of whom were fellow artists, curators, and critics.

    Color photography by Luigi Ghirri. Family in Puglia
    ‘Bitonto, 1990’

    These photographs, almost all of which are little-known and previously unpublished, encompass the full breadth of his work in the region from 1982 right up to his death in 1993.

    The title of the book, ‘Tra albe e tramonti’ (Between Dawns and Sunsets), underscores Ghirri’s fascination with the warm Mediterranean glow of Puglia, undoutedly a key tenet of his love affair with the region. His images demonstrate beautifully his mastery of light, capturing the subtle shifts as the sun descends, transforming hues and casting intricate shadows.

    Color photography by Luigi Ghirri. Buildings, Puglia
    ‘Polignano a Mare, 1986’
    Color photography by Luigi Ghirri. Portrait of 3 young girls in white dresses
    ‘Bitonto, 1990’

    Amidst the cobbled streets and stone facades, adorned with faded red painted doors in a palette of green, yellow, and red, the captivating blue of the Mediterranean consistently re-appears. With a sensitivity and perceptiveness that typifies his style, Ghirri transcribes the region’s coastal waters in subtle analog tones that stand in stark contrast to the hyper-saturated images normally found in travel magazines and websites.

    Color photography by Luigi Ghirri. Boy on bike in town square, Bitonto, Puglia, Italy
    ‘Bitonto, 1990’

    This has always been at the core of Ghirri’s practice: reflecting on individual experiences of the world rather than those shaped by increasingly influential media narratives, something that feels increasingly relevant with each passing day.

    Color photography by Luigi Ghirri.
    ‘Grotta Zinzulusa, n.d.’

    Beautifully presented by Mack, with the insightful input of Luigi’s daughter, Adele, “Puglia. Tra albe e tramonti” is a compelling portrait of a region that held a special place in the photographer’s heart.

    It serves both as a testament to Puglia’s unique beauty and charm and to the mastery of perhaps Italy‘s most renowned photographer, showcasing his unique ability to transcribe seemingly familiar, everyday scenes with apparent simplicity and straightforwardness, and yet transform them into something new and enchanting.


    All images © Luigi Ghirri

    “Puglia. Tra albe e tramonti” is published by Mack and is available via their website.