Let’s think of a hunter-gatherer of stories, a seven floors tower, the fascination of a nomadic spirit and the power of b&w images: the result is a quite interesting exhibit dedicated to Bruce Chatwin at the Tower of the Luni Bishops Castle in Castelnuovo Magra (Liguria).
The exhibit Bruce Chatwin… the journey continues, offers a different perspective on the writer as a photographer. Indeed, for the eclectic Chatwin, “writing and photography complement and reinforce each other with continuous cross-references. Pictures are a kind of visual notebook for him, as they find more substance in his traveling books, while his writings telling places, people, cultures manage to allow the readers’ imagination ‘to see’ what the author describes”, curator Maurizio Garofalo says. Chatwin is best known for his travelling and his writing books that amazed the literary world, like In Patagonia (1977), while his work as a photographer has long been underestimated. Some collections of his photographs – mostly color images – were published after his death in books like Photographs and Notebooks (1993).
The Luni exhibition in is the first one displaying b&w images only, according to a project by Luciana Damiano, founding member of Premio Chatwin and Associazione Chatwin, Ilaria Attuoni and Elizabeth, Bruce’s wife and president of the Chatwin Association. “We visited Elizabeth and she showed us some series of negatives: it was not easy reading their quality, but we foresaw something quite interesting in them. We were told they were unpublished: it was a kind of challenge”, Damiani says.
The Luni Tower hosts some 30 photos (1961-1985), including some vintage and restored negatives and many unpublished shots, like the ones he took with his wife in Yunnan. They come from the Oxford University that took over the preservation of Chatwin’s conspicuous archive (more than 3,000 images built up during his restless travelling). If Chatwin’s color images seem to aim at geometry and ideal proportions, his b&w production is affected by both his studies on aesthetics and art and his being a restless traveler and a storyteller, so they reveal a more social and anthropological slant. His knowledge of art provided him with a clear and accurate way of observing. These images were shot with his Leica CL and 40mm lens and with a Rolleiflex. He used to shoot with great discretion: according to his wife Elizabeth, “he would whip out his Leica, quickly take the picture, slip the camera into his pocket and walk on”.
“Chatwin, whose work revived the genre of travel writing, trekked across the world and left us the mystery and the enchantment of his stories together with his great rationalism, an amazing set that grabs the reader and is still effective today”, Damiani adds. Then the 6+1 floors of the tower: while climbing them, one walks across the continents according to Chatwin “wonder voyages”, from his first journey to Egypt and then to Afghanistan, Yunnan, West Africa, Patagonia (40 years since the publication of In Patagonia). Also on stage, on the seventh floor, his own mythical backpack, crafted as an English saddle.
Paola Sammartano is a journalist specialized in arts and photography based in Milan, Italy.
Bruce Chatwin…il viaggio continua
July 8 to October 8, 2017
Torre del Castello dei Vescovi di Luni
19033 Castelnuovo Magra (SP)