… I set out to examine a landscape that, as a consequence of the overlapping of objects, histories and ideas, often seems completely foreign to me.
This is from the essay ‘Italia ailati’ 1971-1979 found in The Complete Essays 1973-1991 by Luigi Ghirri (2016):
When travelling by train, I have always been amused by the gap between the landscape visible from the carriage windows, and the photographs placed inside the train compartments depicting the usual sites — the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Romanesque cathedrals, Renaissance cities, mountains, lakes and pines along the coastline.
The journey is thus twofold: there is one to be seen from the window and another to be seen inside the train compartment. Perhaps it was on the basis of this observation that I called this journey of mine through Italy Italia ailati. I tried to document both an image of a journey from the train window, and the juxtaposing images displayed inside the compartment.
[line break added] The result was a kind of sandwich of images: the official, ever-present, static Italy, alongside the other one, blurred by speed, as if it were of little importance. We might often find a synthesis of these two contrasting scenes in the world around us; the battlements of a tower attests to the glories of the past, and the swallows fly above them, but they cannot conceal the concrete fencing against the blue sky.
My aim is not to offer testimony to everyday banalities, or to pick out the kitsch; rather, I’m driven by a desire to know, to decipher, and to bring together these two contrasting views in order to discover something about their affinities and differences. While the past may be symbolized by a miniature trinket of the Urbino Palazzo, or a row of Davids in a Rome shop window, it’s important to also remember that many things are not ‘For Sale,’ and the market is not omnipresent in the outskirts of the city, or the hills around it.
In this series, which comprises some 200 photographs, I set out to examine a landscape that, as a consequence of the overlapping of objects, histories and ideas, often seems completely foreign to me. Or perhaps it is so familiar that I can’t read it — there are too many personal memories folded into its terrain, recollections that stop me from seeing clearly and deciphering the landscape.