Fotografia Europea 2016 - Off

Reggio Emilia State Record Office, corso Cairoli no. 6 - Municipality of Reggio Emilia

7 May - 3 July 2016 - Exhibitions

FE_2016_Locandina/Poster OFF


  Monday – Friday 09:30-14:30

   Special opening times:

  Saturday 7 May 16:30-20:00

  Sunday 8 May 09:30-13:00

  Saturday 2 July 16:30-20:00

  Sunday 3 July 09:30-13:00


Fotografia Europea 2016


The Via Emilia. Roads, journeys, borders

On 1 February 1986 Reggio Emilia saw the opening of the exhibit titled Esplorazioni sulla via Emilia (Explorations along the Via Emilia), a project that brought together photography, literature, music and film under the common theme of this historic road running “from the river to the sea”, the Aemilian Way, interpreted through a plurality of approaches and readings. The exhibit fell squarely into place with the social and cultural climate of those years and became a point of reference - along with Viaggio in Italia (An Italian Journey) held shortly before it - for Italian landscape photography. One of the project's principal features was that it was developed in several cities in the Emilia Romagna Region, from Reggio Emilia to Bologna and all the way to Rimini.

Today, thirty years after that event, Fotografia Europea takes its cue from the countless suggestions offered by that exhibit and the books associated with it, to start a reflection by images on both the Via Emilia itself and on the concepts and issues relating to roads, transit points and border areas.

The Via Emilia. Roads, journeys, borders purports not only to update the images from thirty years ago - and in this respect it will include an exhibit with historical materials and new specially commissioned works on the Via Emilia - but especially to underscore how both the world and the ways of representing it have changed during the last three decades, and in particular how change has affected the theory and practice of photography, namely the language through which all those who use a photographic tool express themselves today – the “roads” thus also simultaneously refers to those of photography, its borders, frontiers and transit points. All this, with the awareness that such an epochal transformation - set in motion by the world's processes of globalization and digitalization, and thus also of the ways to try to understand and represent it - can still glean useful keys of interpretation from the reflections of those who preceded us and tried to imagine the future as well as to interpret the present.        Anonimo inglese

Two sentences from back then, taken from two introductory texts to the 1986 exhibition, can act as ideal guidelines for the programme of this edition of Fotografia Europea. The first is by Italo Calvino and draws upon an analysis of the writing mechanisms associated with perception and the memory of places: “Thus, since a landscape is fraught with temporal qualities, its description is always a narrative: there is a Self in motion describing a landscape in motion, and every element of the landscape is fraught with its own temporal quality, namely with the possibility of being described during another present or future time...”.

The second is by Luigi Ghirri, a central figure in the development of the project Esplorazioni sulla via Emilia, and it describes the state of photography in a way that is of extraordinary relevance today: “Photography can be a significant moment of pause and reflection, a necessary moment of reactivation of our circuits of attention tripped by the speed of the exterior. It would be naive and wrong to consider photography as the static image of a particular sunset, viewed in extreme slow motion, or as a way of stopping time. Instead, I think that photography today can be an image of balance or of pacification, between known representations and the representations that will be, between the saturation of the exterior and the vacuum on which our gazes increasingly fall upon”.

Clearly such reflections, which are universal in character, need to be set in a specific context, such as today's, with its peculiar facts and features: how can “roads” be narrated today through photography? Can there still be an individual description, a Self that narrates a specific landscape with a specific language? And what role can this narrative play within the narrative of the contemporary world's movements, ways and roads?

The walls, frontiers and borders that used to constitute road blocks in the past seemed to have been torn down, but they are now being reconstructed. At the same time, there is nothing that can block today's digital roads, and hold back the monetary and information flows from running immaterially, including photographic images shared in real time.

Thus the road becomes a text on which to train our gaze, and to practise in Ghirrian fashion our ability to reactivate our circuits of attention, and also as a pretext, a starting point, a trigger for a journey between memory and current reality, between individuality and collectivity, between oneness and difference within the interconnected society and its inhabitants, often members of the “global families” discussed by Ulrich Beck. While also keeping alive the relationship between images and writing that is one of the key features of Esplorazioni sulla via Emilia, in which the written narratives are as valuable as the photographs in the overall definition of the project.

And where such powerful lines as these, written by Corrado Costa, can be found, providing a fitting caption to this edition of Fotografia Europea: “The road marks borders, the way cuts through them. The way is shared. The road is our own.  Like words. The language is shared, but the words are our own”. Thus we move from the Via Emilia to the other roads of the world.


OFF circuit: a rich offering of exhibition material

Off Circuit is the free and independent section of Fotografia Europea which springs from the spontaneous initiative of individuals. Since the festival was first held in 2007 the circuit has expanded significantly, so that today the whole urban fabric is involved through the participation of private individuals who organize exhibits and events independently in the province of Reggio Emilia.

For some years the Off circuit has expanded thanks to the network : in the section Portfolio Online is possible to give a personal contribution to the reflections on the theme edition with an online exhibition , a portfolio of 5 images open in the site section.

The Off Circuit exhibitions programme is made up of a variety of different initiatives, including displays at the various municipalities of the province and art galleries,  exhibits sponsored by associations and photography clubs and the extensive circuit organized throughout the city.

Daniele Buraia: «1839 – 1899. My first sixty years, Photography»

Family shots to be handed down through the generations, the inner-workings of a bourgeoisie at its height, posing for long periods in a studio, a form of reporting ahead of its time, glimpses of cities that would go on to become postcard images, austere and moving portraits,Nord America plumed hats, cartes de visite, monuments and ruins, exotic snapshots, ceremonies and authorities, freak orientalisms, the miracle of colour…

In the first decades of its invention – from the 1840s to the end of the 19th century – photography made extraordinary leaps forward in reshaping the world. And it did so thanks to some iconic techniques that then fell into disuse: tintype, albumen, carbon print, woodburytype, cyanotype, crystoleum, as if the photographer were an alchemist getting to grips with the chemistry, rhythm and secret laws of creation.

The exhibition “1839-1899, my first sixty years, Photography”, one of the biggest attractions of the O circuit, is a journey into this extraordinary evolution that starts with the collection of Ferrarese photographer Daniele Buraia. 

An exhibition of this type is proof of the lure of these images, aged with time and surrounded by the aura that Walter Benjamin wrote about. They also evoke Fratelli Alinarithe adventurous “destiny” of enthusiasts and collectors, who are willing to sift through the wares of flea markets, attics and trunks in search of a new photograph, perhaps one of a face looking out at us from an era long-gone, which, despite the passing of time, still holds the vitality and presence of the here and now.

The focal point of the exhibition is the years of Italian Unification, when a bourgeoisie on the up and up confided its hopes and fears, optimism and uneasiness in the camera. The formal beauty of many of the snaps, their pictorial qualities, the refined staging, make these anonymous pieces unique, the collective memory of several generations. The contrast between the novelty that photography represented when the photo was taken and the course of history that distances it from us today is of unique appeal to the modern-day viewer.Le due torri 

The exhibition is of particular significance to the space hosting it, the historic building that houses the Italian Record Office, a gem in the centre of the city. It is a place steeped in history, dating back to before the 16th century, and was subject to the interventions of the Dukes of Este before changing hands between ecclesiastical orders and Jewish merchants. This historical path is well represented by the great variety of images on display.

«Sixty years are a significant period of time in history, especially when we think about the history of images, which photography has burst into in the early decades of the 19th century.

Fotografia ParigiThe expressions of the people who, in the photographs on display, are both well-known and anonymous figures, patiently posing for the photographer, show that they are acutely aware of and desire one thing: to leave a trace of themselves in history, to insert themselves into the narrative of a story, a story that we today are here to read.

The story is that of photography, of course: of its technical evolution, the way it grew to cover ever-vaster areas, the way it broke out of the studios to explore monuments and cities, to document countries and cultures from increasingly further afield. And so we find ourselves – also thanks to precise notes from the collector, who identifies the people in the photos, photographers and where each piece is from – on a journey, a bit like those who, at the time of the Grand Tour, travelled around Europe, sometimes going as far as Asia, near and far, to broaden their experiences and their horizons.

It is a journey that involved breaks and more detailed chapters, as is the case here for the city of Ferrara, and an insistence on certain specific geographic and cultural areas, obviously Italy before and immediately after its unification, a country whose profileAdelaide Ristori it was so important to reshape at the time, including through photography, with documentation of its artistic and architectural heritage and with representations, which we see in cartes de visite, of its inhabitants, be they members of the royal family, well-known artists (Adelaide Ristori, let’s remember, is part of the history of Italy not only for her work in the theatre) or peasants in traditional dress.

This exhibition is one of photography that shares an affinity with other forms of art, painting but also theatre – just look at the painted backgrounds used in the studio portraits – but that also presents itself as a unique form of composition, used for specific purposes, as is the case with multiple portraits of the same subject in carte de visite compositions.              Fontana di Mosè 

This journey gives us a picture, a representation by many ‘authors’: by the photographers, of course, by the people photographed, who appear in the picture according to their interpretation of reality and culture, and even by those who have in their time acquired these photographs to include them in collections and albums that we can only imagine today. And finally, by those who put together this collection and designed this exhibition, giving these items new and unprecedented meaning.»

Claudia Cavatorta

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