… we must establish an affection for these places, spaces and faces, in order for them to become recognizable, familiar, and inhabitable …
This is from the essay ‘How to Look at It. From the Road … ‘ 1986 found in The Complete Essays 1973-1991 by Luigi Ghirri (2016):
… our road moves at two different speeds: the movement of traffic and the continuous changing of the landscape. And yet, in order to photograph it, we need to discover the simple value of slowness, which does not simply mean stopping or going slow, but paying close attention while moving along this 260 kilometer stretch of the Via Emilia.
In order to grasp and to reveal differences and specificities, we need to wait patiently for the sun to go down, or for it to filter through the trees at dawn, accentuating the landscape of the Po River at Piacenza. And a few kilometers further on, you need to wait patiently for the watchman to accompany you to see the ‘Ecce Homo’ paintings by Antonello da Messina in the 18th century atrium of Alberoni College; here, taking great care, we might pick out, behind a crocodile with an open mouth, a sacred image — almost a scene from Fellini, a special synthesis of the two souls, profane and religious, of the land we are looking at.
[line break added] Likewise you need to stand at a very specific point in space to observe and photograph the façades of the Romanesque cathedrals you come across along the road, or to look at the skyline for a prolonged moment to pick out the spectacular double vault of St. Anthony the Abbot in Parma, or the weather vanes on top of the steeples.
If we are to describe the ceaseless, daily movement of the road, we cannot simply capture a repetitive sequence of factory walls, warehouses, supermarkets, bars and schools; but rather, we need to go into the buildings, or wait for the children or workers to come out, or wait for the light to strike the façades in a certain way so we may take their portrait.
[line break added] We need to wait for the sun to go down and the dusk light to pierce through the gloom, so that the churches, with their soft and delicate hues, might take on a special character; then, making our way along the road at night, we might come across sleepy atmospheres and vanishing landscapes, but also a number of ‘colors’ — artificial light illuminating things, faces, and spaces, like the dancehalls of Villacella, not far from Reggio Emilia on a feast day.
Or else, we need to seek out that atmosphere just before a rainfall, or right after it, when the fir trees in the aquatic gardens of Faenza explode in all their shades of green. In fact, we need to forget all about those ‘passing landscapes’ so that this road does not remain a Land of Babel — the zero degree of history and geography, or the locus where all possible histories and geographies merge — and so, we must establish an affection for these places, spaces and faces, in order for them to become recognizable, familiar, and inhabitable; or perhaps so that we may simply look upon them with new eyes.