12. Last sun rays before the frost

About Luigi Ghirri, sequencing, an old song, and Paul Bowles

After my last post, Past images, future sounds, I received an email from my friend V. from Montreal, who is a painter and a photographer. She told me there’s a book of the collected essays by Luigi Ghirri in print. I Love Ghirri’s work, I wonder how I never knew about this book’s existence. I ordered it immediately and received it before I could even have the chance to have some time to read it.

I brought the book with me at the house on the hill, where we went to spend a night and a day during the weekend. We left the town at 17:00h.

As soon as I had some time alone, I opened the book randomly and the first thing I read was the following paragraph.

And so once I accepted ‘the decisive moment’ as inevitable (by this I obviously do not mean the censoring of a linear time concept, which often ends up as a set of pointless photo sketches), and as part of the inner structure of the photographic language, I tried instead to concentrate on the relationships within a sequence of images. Even without a pre-established narrative, or even conceived randomly, the sequence allowed for further moments of interrelation between images, and helped me to clarify what I was doing.

— Luigi Ghirri, “f/11, 1/125, Natural Light” in “The Complete Essays, 1973-1991”

It struck me, as I spent a lot of time trying to define the way I work with still images. Wether for work or for my own art projects, I find always myself somewhere between still photography, film-making, and also music and writing. I can feel I edit photography a bit like I edit films, while trying to retain the specificity of the effect the still image. I usually envision sets in short sequences around a theme that is not pre-determined. A bit later in the essay, Ghirri talks about this specific subject.

I have found that choosing a genre or a style in advance, wether aesthetic or linguistic, can be a fraught endeavour, and that such choices lead to a loss of both expressive value and of partiality. Thus, I have altogether avoided choosing a genre or style, as they may further fragment a language (photography) that is fragmentary by nature.

— Luigi Ghirri, “f/11, 1/125, Natural Light” in “The Complete Essays, 1973-1991”

Since I started this series, I realized I enjoy writing a short text that is not necessarily directly related to the sequence of photos I want to show. Maybe because it seems to me the definition of an essay in the English-speaking world is less intimidating than what it implies in French. An essay is a vaguely defined short text around a subject that is not going to be exhausted in it, un essai implies for me the kind of authoritative, articulate voice, that I don’t have or ambition to have.

The day after, I was the first one to get up and I went for a walk while it was still dark. The field next to the house was glimmering softly with the first warm rays of the sun. It was the very the last time in the season before the cold takes over completely. The dew was not frozen, yet. I watched the sun come up. Throughout the day, its light was pleasing and reassuring, but it quickly fade away in the afternoon. At 17:00h its was dark and we went back to the sleeping town in the nook of the river, a town travelling still, in time, heading right to the heart of the darkness of winter.

Once at home, one more rotation of the Earth was behind us.

Hello friends!

For the first time I missed a post last week. I opened the chat feature in Substack, where I will send updates inbetween posts to let the subscribers who want to know when the next post will drop approximately, and to say hello to each other.

I made the song embedded in the post in 2014 for a photo exhibition named Le Royaume Intérieur (The Kingdom Inside), and it contains an audio excerpt from The Sheltering Sky, the 1990 film by Bernardo Bertolucci, read by Paul Bowles himself, the author of the book from which the film is adapted, which reads as follows.

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

― Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

“The Complete Essays, 1973-1991” by Luigi Ghirri is available from Mack Books.

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À bientôt !


1. Dry
2. End of summer on the hill
3. The color of time
4. Fire & water, artificial images, seasons
5. Keep The Streets Empty For Me
6. Things that make the heart beat faster
7. Things that are loud, colorful and ugly, and make the children happy
8. The dream of the old house
9. The fossils in the dark room
10. Hearing voices
11. Past images, future sounds