GUIDO GUIDI, fotograferen om te begrijpen

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Net buiten Cesena woont hij, Guido Guidi, 77 jaar. Hier heeft hij altijd gewoond, een stad in het noord-oosten van Italië tussen Rimini en Bologna. Het is er plat, boerenbuiten, een landschap in rechte lijnen, beploegde velden en een brede horizon, draden boven je hoofd en de lange bedding van de oude Romeinse heirbaan, de ‘Via Aemilia, pararel met de A14 autoweg.
Dit is ook het landschap van zijn foto-werk waarin hij niet de postkaart-versie van Italië heeft gekozen, met zijn frisse platteland en middeleeuwse stadjes, maar de periferie, het vergetene en het ordinaire: de vlug opgetrokken schuren vlakbij de snelweg, het hoopje gebouwen aan de rand van de stad waar de vreemdeling snel voorbijloopt.

In zijn nieuwe boek ‘Per Strada’ (Langs de wegen) nu met een kleine tentoonstelling in Londen, brengt hij meer dan 200 foto’s bij elkaar gemaakt tussen 1980 en 1990 over zijn van dichtbij bekeken territorium.

Al jaren gebruikt hij het grote 25 x 20 cm formaat met zijn oude camera, de grootste en zwaarste die hij kan dragen. (om niet te vlug toe te geven aan de gemakkelijke digitale wijze van werken)
Zijn negatieven zijn dus net zo groot als de afgedrukte foto.
Door die kwaliteiteit van het negatief zijn de details tot en met zichtbaar, de afgebladerde verf van een deur, een detail van een klink, weerspiegelingen.

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Guido Guidi (1941, Cesena, bij Ravenna) volgde in Venetië opleidingen architectuur (aan het IUAV, het Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia) en industrieel ontwerpen (de Corso Superiore di Disegno Industriale). Bij het maken van foto’s raakte hij zo geboeid door het medium dat fotografie zijn leven werd. Guidi groeide uit tot een van de belangrijkste figuren van de hedendaagse Italiaanse fotografie. Zijn huis in Ronta is behalve uitgangspunt en inspiratiebron voor zijn omvangrijke werk ook de plaats waar hij zijn oeuvre archiveert. Dit laatste speelt in op de geschiedenis van de schilderkunst, de architectuur en de fotografie. Guidi’s landschappen, portretten en stillevens zijn op de meest uiteenlopende manieren visuele parallellen of tegenhangers van wat op deze gebieden te vinden is in de hedendaagse architectuur, de renaissanceschilderkunst, het Italiaanse neorealisme, de conceptuele kunst…

“The history of the city is like an egg,” he says. “The ancient city was like a boiled egg, with clear edges bound by walls. Then the city became a fried egg, its edges spread out. Nowadays, it is a scrambled egg, with no form.” When he was a student, studying design and architecture in Venice in the 50s, “we used to talk about this non-shape of the contemporary city. We were thinking about how to represent this city without form in art.” Anyway, he points out, the periphery is not an objective point: one person’s periphery is another’s centre, and “the centre is where you are”. He adds: “If you want, there is a subtle political message – though I would put it no more strongly than that – in my choosing to photograph this room, or one of my neighbour’s houses.”

In this age of the scrambled-egg town, the centre is where the old monuments are, but not, for the most part, people’s lives. And, while he acknowledges the importance of photography that captures great historical dramas – political speeches, wars – his work insists on the importance, even transcendence, of the apparently unremarkable.

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Above all, the photographs argue against the idea of a “decisive moment”, to quote the title of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s most famous book – they refute the notion that the photographer’s job is to capture a turning point, a denouement, to depress the shutter at the moment that captures the essence of an event or scene. According to Guidi: “All moments are decisive – and none.” His work is not about the decisive moment but the “provisional moment” – the idea that this moment is one of a procession of many. Very often, they show some kind of aperture – a doorway, a window, the arches of a portico, even the edge of the lens itself. “It’s part of the game,” he says. “After all, a photograph is a frame, and if you put a frame in the picture, you are suggesting that this is not the whole world, that there is something outside.” It’s another form of honesty. With these gentle reminders that the picture is just a picture, he is showing his workings and hinting at his own subjectivity.

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One of the photographs in the book and exhibition stands apart from the others. It’s not a landscape, but a still life: a dish of impossibly scarlet cherries sitting on a copy of the newspaper La Repubblica. You can’t see the date on the paper, deliberately (though in fact the photograph was taken in 1985, and one of the headlines refers to that year’s Italian presidential election). At one point, Guidi says that he considered using the image as a kind of frontispiece for the whole book. The image is a memento mori: those cherries will rot, that paper will be out of date tomorrow. That effect is all the more accentuated because, like all of the photos in the book, it was taken several decades ago: these other things too have passed, long ago. It’s a reminder that memory and the photographic image are inextricably bound together. As Susan Sontag once wrote: “To remember is, more and more, not to recall a story but to be able to call up a picture.” Guidi says: “All photographs are monuments. If you photograph this cup on the table, for example, it gives it importance. And over time, photographs become more and more like monuments.” In the case of Guidi’s pictures, modest monuments to the dignity of the everyday. (Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian)

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In their transience, Guidi’s views show what common place is, sites not yet completed or in ruins, neglected spaces, where the human beings who sometimes appear in the series either pose conspicuously within a well-defined frame or pass by accidentally in the distance. Guidi uses the expression ‘momentary decision’ to describe the way he shoots, with no pretence of decisiveness, a relationship to time which is just the opposite of the ‘guillotine blade’ of photographers intent on capturing the rapid instant. Guidi’s eye is looking for something pure; in the end, he does not really know whether this is documentary or fiction but it is anchored in the real.

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What interests him is the very brief moment when the view becomes an image; for Guidi, this is where beauty lies, when the infinite possibilities offered by peri-urban spaces take form and become visible. This is a new form of radicalism in the history of the medium, a radicalism of involvement and solidarity with what he photographs, as if it were the very expression of his genes. Indeed, Pasolini and Antonioni had already acquired the freedom of post-war Neorealism by regularly filming in these undefined spaces.

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