Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gabriele Basilico

It seems to me that when you think about it, there aren't actually that many contemporary black and white photographers at the top of their game out there. That is, photographers who work with black and white images in a contemporary way, rather than anachronistically replicating a style or approach long since past (the sort of period instrument orchestra or Civil War re-enactment style of photography) - certainly in many ways colour seems predominantly the medium of contemporary photography. But of those contemporary photographers who chose black and white, Gabriele Basilico would certainly be one. An architect turned photographer, concerned (you'd almost have to say obsessed) principally with the urban condition.

If you took something of rigour of the Becher typological approach and gave it a more Mediterranean sensibility, you would probably end up with Basilico. Although alongside the rigour and discipline there is also a lyricism to his work and perhaps the lingering influence of Luigi Ghirri or even Carlo Scarpa .

Basilico's projects have ranged from cross sections of the Italian suburban countryside, to the French Channel coast, to Seaports, to the ruins of Arles, to Berlin and Beiruit. I particularly like his work on the "dustcloud" landscape of the expansion of the Italian suburbs into the countryside and also his take on his home town of Milan.

There are numerous books of his work published. Porti di Mare; L'esperienza dei luoghi; Interrupted City; Italy - Cross-Sections of a Country; Gabriele Basilico Cityscapes and there is a very good little Phaidon 55 book (note, the printing in some of the later Thames & Hudson books isn't always the greatest - by comparison, something like L'esperienza dei luoghi is gorgeous)
"The beautiful hills of Tuscany, the marvelous historical treasures of Florence-the stuff of travel dreams. Gabriele Basilico shows us another aspect of Italy-the suburban sprawl and its highways, single-family homes, store houses, shopping malls, office buildings, sheds, and workshops. His crisp, analytical photographs delve into the fragmented, cluttered structures relentlessly expanding across much of his native country. As a whole, they coalesce into a portrait of Italy today and the conflicts that have shaped it: traditional agricultural society clashing with modern industrial culture, the transformation of social and urban structures by ever increasing and accelerating mass transit, the emergence of new ways of living and building amidst the indifference of political and architectural elites. "If we look carefully at the genealogy of constructions that Basilico has captured, the new urban territories of Italy seem to be the end product of thousands of little, confused tremors in space.""-Stefano Boeri


Denizen said...

I like Basilico a lot. For a number of reasons, too many to list here in fact. But given that you placed him before Burtynsky it makes a nice comparison. Despite the color vs b&w issue and the declared intents, the two have a style that is not that far apart. But what Basilico has (and Burt. lacks) is the knack to make images that are unmistakably his. I haven't been able to figure out exactly how he does it but I've often found myself looking at an new photograph and saying 'that must be a Basilico', and I'm usually right. If someone can tell me what's the secret I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...

Print/photo tone (silvery midlevel greys..), subject matter (duh!), always a lack of human presence in his work. The way he composes the perspective...

all adds to that "basillico feel'.

Rafał B said...

I am still looking for way to express my architectural photography and I think Basilico's photographs could have some influence on my approach in the future.