Modern Languages

Viewing and writing Italian landscape: Luigi Ghirri and his legacy in photography and literature

This project was conducted between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2015. It was funded by The British Academy and Leverhulme Small Research Grants. The project curated conference keynotes, and a blog with video and photography resources discussing Luigi Ghirri's work. Explore project resources here.

Project leaders

  • Principle Investigator: Marina Spunta, School of Modern Languages, University of Leicester
  • Co-Investigator: Jacopo Benci, British School at Rome 

Advisory committee

  • Professor Marco Belpoliti, Professor of Italian Literature, Università di Bergamo
  • Dr Clodagh Brook, Reader in Italian, University of Birmingham
  • Professor Charles Burdett, Professor of Italian, University of Bristol; Chair of the Society for Italian Studies
  • Dr Laura Gasparini, Director of the ‘Fototeca della Biblioteca Panizzi’, Reggio Emilia; Associate Professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Bologna
  • Professor Robert Lumley, Professor of Italian Cultural History, University College London
  • Professor Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Professor of Art History, Università di Parma; Founder and longtime Director of the CSAC (Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione), Università di Parma
  • Dr Giuliana Minghelli, Associate Professor and Visiting Scholar at the Department of Romance Languages and Literature, Harvard University
  • Professor Maria Antonella Pelizzari, Professor of Art History, Department of Art, Hunters College, New York
  • Dr Giuliana Pieri, Reader in Italian and the Visual Arts, School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Professor Roberta Valtorta, Director of ‘Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea’, Cinisello Balsamo, Milan; Associate Professor of ‘Storia e Teoria della Fotografia’, Centro Bauer, Milan

Aims of the project

There were two interlinked aims for the project.

Broaden the study of the work of Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992)

In the 1970s and 1980s Ghirri initiated an important theoretical and practical renewal of photography as an art form. His innovative vision gave a new aesthetic identity to everyday places and greatly contributed to positing landscape at the core of the artistic practice and theoretical debates in Italy, and as the focus of a growing number of interdisciplinary and collaborative projects.

Explore Ghirri’s legacy in contemporary photography, literature and other disciplines and practices

Within this, the project also examined the intersection among photography, narrative writing and the investigation of space, place and landscape both within Italy and outside. Our project was interdisciplinary in that it aimed to bring together scholars and practitioners working in different fields and from different theoretical approaches on a wide range of questions relating to space, place and landscape, photography/visual culture and literature/writing. Our research network sought to move towards bridging the gap that often divides Italian and British/Irish/Anglophone artistic practice and theoretical debates, and to offer new opportunities of dialogue among artists, scholars and policy-makers working within and outside of Italy and the British Isles.

Activities and events

In order to meet these aims the team set up these elements.

Research network

The interdisciplinary research network fostered dialogue among Italian and British, Irish, Anglophone photographers and artists, writers, scholars, curators and policy-makers working in different fields such as:

  • cultural studies
  • Italian studies
  • history of photography, film and media
  • history of art
  • architecture and urbanism
  • geography
  • philosophy
  • aesthetics
  • environmental studies
  • contemporary history
  • politics, and more.

Online resource

Online resources provided essential tools for individuals, groups and institutions interested in photography and visual arts, literature and writing, and landscape and environmental studies, offering a platform for continued discussion. These included a blog covering the three-year project.


The team organised two conferences and one panel event aimed at bringing together practitioners and scholars to discuss the relevance and legacy of Ghirri’s work. They also considered the intersections and mutual influence between photography and literature in the representation and imagination of space and landscape.

The project events include two conferences/workshops and one conference panel:

  • 9 October 2013, Rome

    One-day conference on Luigi Ghirri’s work, at the British School at Rome. Attendance to this event is free and open to all. The workshop coincides with the Ghirri retrospective exhibition at the MAXXI museum in Rome (23 April-27 October 2013).
  • 19-21 September 2014, Leicester (UK)

    Three-day conference at the University of Leicester on ‘L’esperienza del luogo’: Italian photography, writing and landscape. Luigi Ghirri, his contemporaries, his legacy’, Stamford Court (Oadby), Leicester.
  • Summer 2015, Society for Italian Studies (SIS) conference, UK

    A conference panel to present the project’s preliminary results and to promote the network further.

More information

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