Luigi Biagini was born in Carrara, where he still lives and works in his photographic studio in dimmed light. A studio full of books, antique objects, lutes hanging on the walls, a Mac with two giant screens with streams of photographs and that scent of pipe that lingers and intoxicates.
A significant remark of his is: ... isolating a scene, a mood and then stopping it in time has perhaps always been an enjoyable way of life for me. A goal I have pursued since I was a child...
Since a very young age, he has been attracted by the world of images. In 1968, he set up his first darkroom at home where he began to print small format photographs taken with a 35 mm camera on a contact printer.
His interest then moved to large formats, landscape photographs in black and white. This was a choice dictated by the curiosity and fascination for the Carrara quarries which he explored far and wide, first riding his inseparable Vespa and then aboard his all-purpose Volkswagen Beetle.
In the late '70s, Luigi Biagini began a bizarre and unusual photographic research that took the name of "smoke pictures". These photographic experiments, as he called them, were connected and dictated by a study, mixed with curiosity, that at the time he was carrying out on the unconscious and our aura.
A new way to represent our experiences and our inner life, through developing and printing pictures, as if these smoke photographs, through an evocative and compelling interpretation, said something about us, something which our conscious mind doesn't see.
After the esoteric series of "smoke pictures", Biagini began following the idea of that secret place that photography creates by relating his sensitivity with the world and the variety of its aspects.
In the 80s, he began studying Ansel Adams and his zone system that enabled him to transfer the light he observed into specific densities on negatives and then on paper, thereby managing a better light balance in the developing stage.
Moreover, again in the wake of Adams, he was attracted by Group f/64 since in the 30s these photographers wanted to reproduce daily life objectively without the aid of technology, in the manner and spirit of how Luigi Biagini photographed in the same period.
The delightful sensations aroused by the lively and diverse images of the marble quarries in his Carrara drove him to photograph places, situations, people at work, machinery, the nature of the quarries and then sculpture workshops, sculptures and sculptors for the next twenty years.
It can be said that his photographs stand as an extraordinary witness of time, a time that flows inexorably and is fortunately enchanted by his sensitivity. In fact, at the beginning of the 80s, his pictures accompanied the transition from the helicoidal wire to the diamond wire, a radical change in the technique of cutting marble.
Through his pictures, he shows the striking transformation of the landscape of the marble quarries where many roads made of earth and stones were then asphalted, suddenly signs were placed, almost defacing the landscape rather than giving information, and gates and fencing systems were put up to indicate private property, thereby preventing the curious visitor or strange foreigner from entering.
In these years of great transformation of the quarries, Luigi Biagini?s interest shifted to focus much more on the marble itself, no longer on marble as an enchanted landscape but on its unique features and its essence between contrasts of light and shade creating abstract or figurative images similar to sculptures or drawings.
He no longer photographed the landscape to describe the environment, the places, the nature, but rather to show an interior landscape that comes out of the marble, from its skin, which the book published in 1998, entitled La pelle del Monte (the skin of the mountain) reveals.
In conjunction with this new research in the mid-80s, Luigi tells me vividly that he began to shoot a photo story on the dirt tracks of the Tuscan countryside and the atmosphere you could feel travelling along the "white roads", as he likes to call them.
So began this enchanting adventure, one day by chance, even if chance is never by chance, taking a secondary road, a beautiful white road crossing the countryside from Certaldo to San Gimignano.
Having left an old road, always busy and full of trucks, for a new one was an opportunity to explore new landscapes of lush vegetation and elegant cypress trees and enjoy pleasant scents. It was an opportunity to observe people in the fields, elderly people sitting outside the door quietly in their world, people playing cards drinking red wine under a pergola and carefree children running and enjoying themselves.
Then, with a smile, he says he experienced an extraordinary sense of peace and that just travelling on that white road forgotten by time was a succession of emotions, euphoria and desires captured forever in images by his photographic eye.
Luigi always likes to return to the places he has photographed after some time to see if they still have a captivating effect on his inner eye.
However, as often happens, progress brings with it an uninspiring change which for him is like the sense of degradation he had witnessed, in the name of progress, in the world of the quarries of Carrara.
The wonderful memories of the white road and its landscape that led straight to the heart was changing radically and by chance, those places had been photographed.
A period of irreversible change that the beautiful Tuscan countryside suffered in such an undignified and improbable manner due to inexorable progress led him to intensify his observations into frames to freeze the atmosphere. Moreover, he aimed to raise public and government awareness to avoid the indiscriminate disfigurement and brutality to the landscape seen and experienced as a common asset.
This is how the splendid publications of the books Le Vie Bianche in Toscana (The white roads in Tuscany) in 2002 and Le Vie Bianche della campagna senese (The White Roads of the Siena countryside) in 2004 came about. They are accurate testimonials in the artistic sense of nature that in the form of landscapes, places and people represented the contemporary manifestation of economic development.
In this sense of photography as a tool for social awareness, we can compare the meaning and art of Biagini?s photography with that of the American William Eugene Smith, one of the greatest documentary photographers of the twentieth century.
This remark by Luigi, which he repeated to me several times in one of our many conversations, is emblematic: Even if my images do nothing to curb the onslaught of asphalt and concrete in the countryside, they will surely remain as a historical memory of the enchanted landscape.
It is also important and right to recall that in this period Biagini donated a series of photographs on the Tuscan countryside to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
From the Tuscan countryside he moved to Emilia Romagna, a fertile land of white roads to cross and photograph at any time, looking for fleeting moments that could become eternal, the flow that becomes the essence of movement. A moment caught by the photograph that turns into an imaginary image, an image that contains in itself the essence of time becoming a sublime metaphysical landscape.
In addition, in 2008 he published a photo book of the city of Ferrara entitled: Ferrara: Terra, Acqua e Sapori (Ferrara: land, water and flavours) and began a series of personal exhibitions in various towns around Emilia on the white roads of Ferrara.
Also in 2008, after years of travels, visits to Tuscany and endless photographs from the very first hours of dawn to dusk, from the blinding glare of the sun to the wet grey or drizzle that creates atmosphere, Biagini published a book of photographs entitled Viaggio nei Luoghi Danteschi in Toscana (A journey through Dante's haunts in Tuscany).
This extraordinary, skilful work, condensed into a book, was appreciated and recognised by the Dante Alighieri Society in Rome, to such an extent that in 2011, through the contribution of the Ministry for Culture, he was given the assignment to photograph the Italian landscape in the Divine Comedy.
A prestigious and important assignment that would require a long time to complete considering that the client was and is among the leading experts competent on the subject.
All doubt put aside, Luigi embarked on a photographic journey into the past, relying solely on the reading of Dante?s works. Moreover, these suggested, as a source of inspiration, a credible route to find and photograph only those places that Dante could have seen and experienced, thus eliminating from his lens everything that did not belong to this period and context.
The other method he followed to produce the documentary shoot in Dante?s haunts, was to ask himself before taking the picture: Can I see Dante pass by in this picture...?
A photographic interpretation acquired in the previous publication relating to Dante that validated the frame and ensured the sense and meaning of the shot.
Hence, as for other occasions, after many trips and countless shots, this "adventure" took shape: the search for the landscape where Dante spent part of his life, in a photo book published in 2012 entitled Il paesaggio italiano nella Divina Commedia (The Italian landscape in the Divine Comedy). This was crowned by two unforgettable photographic exhibitions, the first commemorative in 2011 for the celebration of ?150 years of the unification of Italy" in Turin at the Royal Palace, in the Chiablese Palace. While the second exhibition in 2012 at the Museum of the De Lieto Palace in Maratea accompanied a Convention with the Director-General for cultural and natural heritage, Attilio Maurano, the director for cultural and natural heritage, Francesco Canestrini, and the General Councillor of the Dante Alighieri Society in Rome, Francesco Sisinni. The latter, on that occasion, declared publicly that it would become a travelling exhibition in Italy and abroad.
From 2011, after the advent of the digital age, Luigi Biagini went back to photographing marble, but this time his exploration was aimed at training his eye to see a detail, search for colours and shades that could be highlighted or contrasted in an image. Clearly, this compositional study was stimulated and facilitated by technology since a professional digital camera allows for a considerable increase in and optimisation of colours and speed in the vision of the image shot as well as the possibility of retouching it on the computer. Over time, by fine-tuning his eye and technique, Luigi changed his shots with plays on symmetries that allowed him to create new abstract visions.
Once he had acquired and perfected this technique of changing the reality of the image, Luigi went further in his experimentation. From these abstracted visions, stemming from symmetrical reproductions, he added his own alchemy, as he defined it, which gave a higher or lower percentage of colour to the colour already in the image, thus altering its hue.
As Panoramix's magic potion that is the only guardian of the secret recipe, so these alchemical formulas are secretly guarded by Luigi and only he knows the number, the weight and the quantity of ingredients to achieve these photographic alchemies that are at the centre of his research today.
Filippo Rolla