I have to confess that I really don’t know much about art photography. My background is steeped in documentary and journalistic work. It has been only within the past few years that I’ve taken a deeper look at work outside the parameters of what I studied in graduate school at the Missouri School of Journalism. And I’ll confess one more thing: I can’t say I have a much deeper understanding now than I did before. I do have a greater appreciation for it, though. And it is with this appreciation that I’m happy to have been able to take a look at Italian photographer Guido Guidi’s book “Lunario,” published early this year by Mack books.
Guidi is considered a titan of the Italian photography world. He has spent decades photographing the landscapes of northern Italy, specifically the area he has called home throughout his life, Cesena. According to Luisa Grigoletto, writing at Frieze, those photographs “focus on the marginal, the fragmented and the minimal elements of landscape. His unsentimental method recalls that of a topographer, who surveys the land without considering aesthetic hierarchies or indulging in the grandeur of nature.” For “Lunario,” Guidi seems to have gone in a different direction.
According to the publisher, “Lunario” “takes the name of a traditional farmer’s almanac to bring together several strands of work all relating to the moon.” The book is made up of photos Guidi created from 1968 to 1999. Throughout its pages, references to the moon manifest themselves in surprising ways — from the shape of a woman’s face to the glowing white orb of a young child’s ball and finally through a series of color photos Guidi took of a partial solar eclipse in August 1999. Of the work, the publisher says, “Throughout ‘Lunario,’ Guido Guidi comes back to the moon as a source of stylistic and thematic inspiration: a symbol of melancholy and madness, changeabitlity and a constant reminder of the transience of everyday life.”
Because I am not so familiar with art photography but find it fascinating, I often find myself reading the words of people far more invested in the art world than I am. This time around, I read Brad Feuerhelm’s thoughts on “Lunario” at ASX, one of the most prominent blogs devoted to art and photography and one I have visited frequently over the years. It would be worth your time to read Feuerhelm’s entire review, but this paragraph stuck out:
“Guidi is looking for the correlation between photographic thought, observation and the processes by which he observes the moon as his muse and finally delineates his response to it with his camera. Lunario, for all the funhouse photographic parlour tricks and Baldessarian motivations of a child’s ball bounced against a garden wall becomes something bigger. There are strange oblique references to the moon in object form such as the scythe, a woman’s Kertesz-like distorted face and one of my favorites — a simple hole in the wall. We are also reminded of gravity, apples and Newton. A series of orbital studies approximate a lunar surface and printed as a contact sheet become something of a conceptual fetish object.”
One of the things I like most in photography is a sense of mystery. One cliche that you’ll hear a lot of photo editors use is, “I like photographs that ask questions rather than give answers.” But sometimes cliches hold a nugget of truth. Guidi’s photos certainly do have a sense of mystery to them. That signals a deep commitment to using photography to explore the human condition and not merely describe it.
You can order the book here.
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