Born on January 5, 1943 in Scandiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia, Luigi Ghirri studies geometry in Modena and obtains his degree in 1962. He will work as a surveyor until 1974. From 1968, he travels in Italy and abroad (Paris, Lucerne, Bern, Amsterdam, Brittany). In 1974, he opens a graphic arts studio, before cofounding, in 1977, the publishing house Punto e virgola, that will release Kodachrome (1970 – 1978). He shares an interest for vernacular cultures with Walker Evans, by whom he affirms having been strongly influenced since 1977. In 1979, he shows extracts from the series “Breakfast the grass” and “Italian memories” at the Venice Biennale. The following year, he presents at the Light Gallery in New York a series of color prints under the evocative title: “Still life and topographyiconography.” On his obsession for atlas, he declares: “Travelling on a geographic map, a precious activity for many writers, is one of the most natural gestures for each one of us, since childhood. The inevitable ideas that come to mind, the overlap of images, automatically guide the thoughts.”
Mirror games, illusionary mural paintings, graphic signs, frames within the fame, cropped perspectives, are all means to make the viewer drift away. But this discreet surrealism is limited to formalism and color. He uses color without making it a subject in itself. In that way, he is one of the pioneers of what will be called in the USA “The New Color” or “The New topographics.”
In 1982, Luigi Ghirri starts a collaboration with the architecture magazine Lotus International, followed by Domus, Gran Bazaar, Intyerni (Interiors), Ottagona (Octagon), and Arca. He receives assignments from public and private institutions: he photographs thermal stations for the region of Emilia Romagna, the Versailles castle for the French ministry of Culture, the region of Modena for the Italian Touring Club, and the Po Valley for the group Riello. He will produce about twenty works. Landscapes shaped by agriculture, urbanism or tourism, buildings signed and built by human genius, Ghirri continues his research on the very locations of the creation embodied by Giorgio Morandi. With his photographs of the cemetery of Modena, in 1983, Luigi Ghirri starts a close collaboration with Aldo Rossi, which leads to the production of books and writings on the topic of architecture and its representation.