About the infinite in each one of us: Luigi Ghirri at MAC/CCB

While writing this article – lengthy due to the maturation required by the impressions on Ghirri’s work -, I found on the internet – that immense and never-ending world of images – a photograph of a painting by the Venezuelan artist Juan Araujo. This painting was modelled on a Luigi Ghirri photograph to draw reference to Morandi.

Why is this relevant? If Juan Araujo’s work can be understood as an oscillation between the idea of appropriation of certain figures and issues in recent art history, and “thinking about the labyrinth of references that define creative processes”[1], perhaps we can fit Ghirri’s work not as a reference or appropriation – despite Morandi – but as a thought. Not only about creative processes as procedures for bringing images to life, but about all the looks that are directed at them, creating an unlimited interpretative potential impossible to enumerate.

Perhaps all Ghirri’s work is based on a kind of assumed co-responsibility when experiencing each photograph, where what he wants to show us is entirely bound to the individual experience (perhaps this is why the images are so small). And, as it is always like this in every picture, the key concept is to identify this claim. This trait has allowed me to open this text on Ghirri with a reference to a painting that I came across by chance or fate, and which makes it even more interesting. Juan Araujo, being aware of the ambiguity of Ghirri’s images, uses them to give different answers to common questions.

Luigi Ghirri quotes Bob Dylan in a 1984 essay that bears the name of this first show of the Italian artist in Lisbon. It is called “Obra aberta” and we hear the echoes of another older “brother”[2]. The American musician talks to us of the inability to be conscious of all the influences that make a work possible, including the forgotten faces, “the turning moments, the curves, the cross-cutters that have disappeared from sight” and that he had left behind[3]. For Ghirri this unconsciousness becomes a way of being and seeing the world. More than that: of showing the world – and here he is different from Juan Araujo.

Of the images in the exhibition – very few, considering the artist’s enormous output – almost all appear under the Paesaggio Italiano banner, but they have the beauty of could have been taken anywhere in the world. Ghirri’s photography is a way of being. It is not political, but it inevitably reflects the concept in which it takes place. Its pretext is to make itself seen.

And this creates a web of influences that are more or less relevant – but insufficient – for understanding the work of one of the most important names in 20th century photographic modernism. Insufficient because the variable that keeps Ghirri’s work open is the attitude taken by each viewer before the image.

The exhibition Luigi Ghirri, Obra Aberta is curated by Pedro Alfacinha and is on show at the Museu MAC/CCB until 4 June 2023.



[1] Text on the exhibition “El Jardín de los senderos que se bifurcan” by Juan Araujo, at Culturgest in 2018. Available in:

[2] Book by Umberto Eco bearing the same name

[3] Quote from Bob Dylan, in the essay “Obra Aberta” (1984) by Ghirri. Featured in the exhibition text.

Tiago Leonardo (Lisbon, 2000) graduated in Art and Heritage Sciences (FBAUL) and attended the Cultural Journalism course (SNBA). He is currently finishing his master's degree in Aesthetics and Artistic Studies, specializing in cinema and photography (NOVA/FSSH) where he focuses his research on post-photography within the Portuguese artistic context. In his work as a writer, he collaborates with several publications; such as the CineBlog of the Philosophy Institute of the UNL, FITA Magazine, among others.

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