About Reality

Boy, icecream, dog; cm.10x15, photo, 2004

Boy, ice cream, dog; cm.10x15, photo, 2004

The following piece was written to introduce eight photographs selected as part of a project initiated by ALINARI24ORE.  The famous Alinari archive in Florence has joined the journal Sole24Ore in a project presenting works by contemporary artists who have been inspired by historic photographic images. A series of exhibitions, starting at the Scavi Scaligeri from the 5th to the 31st of September 2009, will show the prints of 18 artists in a  limited edition. (The picture above is a study for one of eight final prints.)


Reality, that superficial layer that envelops material objects, and living subjects and keeps them in the present, seems to be preserved by the photographic process. By definition, a photograph is a fact of light, an absolute.
In 1852, Leopoldo Alinari, with his brothers Giuseppe and Romualdo, founded a photographic workshop specializing in preserving reality through portraiture, records of art and historical monuments, studies of landscapes and their inhabitants.
Yet it is something beyond their celebrated technical capacity that inspires an irrepressible yearning to look below the surface of subject-matter to the subtle, often unintended, detail. Contemplating their pictures of quotidian life (student gatherings, animated street scenes, women at domestic work, people taking lone walks, children at play) it is hard not to sink below the layer of reality to the realm where a potential fiction lies: that hill, that child, that unruly dog running by, that figure lurking out of focus in the corner…
The miniature subjects on an invented stage depicted here seem to have been caught by the camera as they pass through everyday life. While they are small and inconsequential, they are as large as life because photography always has to do with reality in the world at large. And in life, don’t we sometimes pause suddenly when nothing particular is happening only to look around and discover a world shimmering with meaning?

Frances Lansing,  31 March 2009