During the mid-seventies, color photography was relegated to the glossy pages of consumer magazines, rather than prestigious gallery walls. When the work of William Eggleston was exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in 1976, the art community saw it as a garish collection of colorful noise, a mash-up of the ordinary and the mundane.
That exhibit was a benchmark for a huge shift in photography, but it wasn’t one that was relegated to the United States. There were photographers all over the world who had shifted away from the traditional world of black and white photography and who began to experiment with the possibilities of color. One of these people was Italian photographer, Luiggi Ghirri, whose self-published book, Kodachrome, was released one year after the Eggleston’s landmark exhibition at MoMA.
Now re-released from Mapp Editions in the form of an eBook for the iPad as well as a printed version, the book’s original release came at a time where recognition of photography as a unique and important art form was being reevaluated and redefined in the Italian art world. Ghirri’s work treaded familiar ground with Eggleston with the exploration of the urban environment, but from its own unique perspective.
Ghirri’s strong sense of color and shape pervades all of his images. Yet he has the ability to take the common and the ordinary and completely change our experience of them within the frame. Though the purpose of a sink and mirror in Ile Rousee, 1976 are clear, it’s his use of the space around them that allows the viewer to experience the beauty of the scene, and to think beyond their functional purpose.
It’s a way of seeing space, shape and color that was likely jarring and confusing to viewers in the mid-seventies. Yet, to today’s eyes its work that appears very contemporary. After nearly four decades, the work has timelessness that is rare when compared to the work of many of Ghirri’s contemporaries.
Now as then, Ghirri challenges the way we see not only the photograph but also the world itself. It’s a way of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary that is often a trait of many great photographers.
The book, which reproduces the photographer’s original layout and texts, provides a lover of photography a wonderful opportunity to linger on its imagery and to discover an ageless of way of seeing that is just as valid today as it was years ago.
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