veicolato tante immagini riuscite della miseria umana che potremmo accusarli di averne fatto una specialita o un industria come un altra (con tutto il suo corollario di trucchi). Ebbene, nel momento in cui la sofferenza dei propri simili diventa il genere preferito di un fotografo, in un certo senso il suo marchio professionale, allora queste immagini diventano moralmente inaccettabili, prodotti spettacolari di un Stefanoprodotti De Luigi charity business visivo. Tali si riconoscono abbastanza rapidamente a partire da alcuni effetti, da alcune ricercatezze, da alcune affettazioni stilistiche. Nulla di tutto cio si trova nei lavori di Stefano De Luigi. Non che le sue fotografie non siano costruite, ma si tratta di costruzioni che ignorano la teatralita e ricusano ogni esibizione di abilita. I volti sono spesso ritratti in primo piano, di fronte, con una chiarezza vivida, a volte cruda. De Luigi inquadra da vicino e non lascia in campo alcun oggetto accessorio. A volte compie un epurazione cosi radicale della composizione che si trova quasi costretto a seguire le regole vincolanti della foto d identita. Fa un uso molto ristretto del colore e rifugge i contrasti di luce turbolenti, con tutto il loro potenziale di seduzione. Sono tutte peculiarita in negativo: quello che evita, quello che disdegna. Ma il fatto che lo eviti o che lo disdegni e essenziale. Sarebbe stato semplice per lui cogliere della cecita un dettaglio commovente. Non e difficile immaginare quello che altri avrebbero fatto
To my son Ugo and to our man to man silences.
“The blind raised his hands to his eyes and gestured, Nothing, it’s as if I were caught in a mist or had fallen into milky sea. But blindness isn’t like that, said the other fellow, they say that blindness is black, Well I see everything white”.
BLANCO Stefano De Luigi Texts Philippe Dagen, Giovanna Calvenzi Quotes JosĂŠ Saramago
CONTENTS • pag. 11 Capturing Human Suffering by Philippe Dagen • pag. 15 Other Universes by Giovanna Calvenzi • pag. 18-45 Africa • pag. 46-57 South America • pag. 58-71 Asia • pag. 72-85 Europa • pag. 86-121 Asia
CAPTURING HUMAN SUFFERING Philippe Dagen
To write about Stefano De Luigi’s photographs
the subject of choice or the professional
present is upright simplicity and rigorous focus.
Every image carries a warning or a threat.
of blind people is not an easy task. It is difﬁcult
trademark of a photographer, the images
His photographs are not staged. Inﬁnitely
That is how powerful these photographs are.
not to feel awkward. The immediate question
become morally unacceptable and can only
more violent is his way of confronting us with
It is therefore hardly surprising that they become
is: what can be written that does justice to
be seen as the spectacular product of a visual
a presence. That is part of the reason why it
etched in our memory with an authority that
what is being presented here, right in front of
seems so difﬁcult to write about this work.
seems remarkable given that we are saturated
our eyes? The subject matter is so extreme and
Such products soon stand out for what they are
There is nothing about it that commands
by images, consuming and absorbing enormous
uncompromising that formal considerations soon
because of certain effects, elegant twists and
commentary about formalism or aesthetics.
quantities of them but retaining very few, if any.
fall by the wayside and appear inappropriate and
stylistic affectations. De Luigi does not indulge
The viewer is confronted with the subject
An image therefore needs to have a rare quality
pathetic, the more so since De Luigi seems to
in any of this. That is not to say that his images
stripped bare. It is impossible to evade.
to stand out as an exception and not disappear
shun such considerations.
are not constructed, but in their composition,
The subject at hand is blindness, accidental
in the daily ﬂow that passes before us but leaves
So, let us make this abstinence the starting
they shun both theatrics and a show of skill.
or pathological. What is there to write or say
us with nothing. De Luigi’s photographs possess
point. The depiction of human suffering in
More often than not, the faces are seen close
about blindness that makes any sense? Perhaps
that distinctive quality derived from the fact
photography is one of the most substantial
up, head-on and in the foreground, bathed in
it has something to do with superstition: for
that they are both rigorous and evident, two
and dense subjects in the history of this art.
bright, sometimes even raw light. De Luigi keeps
someone who spends his life looking – at
characteristics that cannot be disassociated.
It is also one of the most delicate since it
the frames tight and does not let any props into
people, photographs, paintings, sculptures, at
One ﬁnal brief remark. De Luigi is the author of
raises the question, “How?” We have seen
the ﬁeld. On some occasions he is so radical in
what is known as art and what is said to be
a series of photographs about television, cinema
hundreds of images – books and magazines
the way he strips the composition right down
reality – it is close to impossible to contemplate
and pornography. His works are concerned with
are full of them – that are horribly cruel and
that the work is not far from the constraints
the prospect of blindness. It would deprive
image-making and the present-day fascination
perfect in their tragedy. The photographer
associated with identity pictures. He uses
him of everything, or if not everything, at
with images: this is the intellectual logic running
is in complete control and masters it all with
colour sparingly, and abstains from the kind of
least of what is essential to his life. One can
through different components of his work.
extreme precision: the framing, the lighting, the
contrasted lighting that stirs and seduces.
imagine being struck by a number of illnesses
Each is a chapter in an ongoing analysis that
split second in which the shot is taken. There.
These could be seen as negative peculiarities:
or deprivations, to which one would get
focuses on visual representation and its various
He has obtained a very good image of misery.
all the things he “does without” and all those
accustomed in time. But not blindness.
contemporary modes. De Luigi is a photographer
The minute one uses the expression “a very
he does not want. But the fact that he does
The truth is, some of these portraits are close
who questions the power of the “visual”, the
good image of misery,” its meaning becomes
without is essential. It would have been simple
to unbearable. The people who feature in
conditions under which it is used, and its
ambiguous, to say the least. One can easily
to draw a particular form of pathos from
these images will never see them. Whoever
limitations. This means that in photographing
justify the photographer’s work by saying that
blindness. It is only too easy to imagine what
looks at them cannot begin to mentally place
blindness, he has pushed his thinking to its most
the better the image, the more powerful the
others might have done, such as enhancing
themselves in the position of the “models” – if
extreme point: the moment in which vision is
message and therefore, the stronger the sense
the shadows to work up the symbolism or
one can even use that term in this instance.
abolished in solitary darkness. It is the moment
of pity and anger in the viewer. On the other
focussing on emblematic gestures like a hand
The viewer’s vision has no other subject than
in which there can be no more images, no more
hand, the visual quality of the image can easily
feeling its way or a grimace of despair, or the
the absence of vision in the look of the blind
representation, no more “visuals”, no more of
give rise to the suspicion of cultivating a certain
scars of decrepitude and picturesque exotic
person. All there is to see is what it means
those things that make up the daily lives of
style, aesthetic and rhetoric. Several well-
misery. Such has been the leitmotiv of
not to see. The only thing to do is to examine
people on this planet. The coherence in De Luigi’s
known photographers have widely published
these eyes or sockets through which no vision
body of work is remarkable.
some very successful images of human misery,
The ﬁrst time I heard about the series De Luigi
ever passes. The clearer and brighter the
to the point that they have been accused of
was ﬁnishing on blind people, I was worried.
photograph, the more one is aware of the fact
making it a speciality, or an industry like any
What convinced me once I saw the work is
that it is a privilege to be able to look at it at
other (and even of tampering with the images).
that none of the things I have just mentioned
all, and that this privilege could be taken away
If the suffering of his or her own kind becomes
are visible in it, quite the opposite. What is
or never have been granted at birth.
Following pages Fatima school Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, 2005 Left Free laser operation offered by Doctor Miguel de Asmat Lima, Peru, 2005
South America 54
55 South America
Following pages Course for traditional ballet at Numar School. Two blind students just before their show Bangalore, India, 2003 Right St. Joseph Hospital. A child who has just regained her sight after a corneal transplantation Trichy, India, 2003
Previous pages Typical landscape of the southern provinces Lipanshui, China, 2005 Left Wuang Nua Hospital. During a medical examination Lampang, Thailand, 2005
Jelez Kolev, 10 years old, during his ďŹ rst day at the school for the blind Varna, Bulgaria, 2006
According to WHO estimates:
All photographs, except the ones on page 92 and
• Every 5 seconds a person becomes blind. Every
115, were taken as part of missions of support for
minute this will happen to a child.
the blind and visually impaired by NGO CBM, who
• Approximately 314 million people worldwide
also supported the logistics of this project.
live with impaired vision and blindness.
CBM is a non-proﬁt organization which cares
• Of these, 45 million people are blind and 269
for blind people and those with other disabilities
million have impaired vision.
in developing countries, with no discrimination • 145 million people’s impaired vision is due to
between race, sex or religion.
uncorrected refractive errors (near-sightedness, CBM Italia works for all men, women and children
far-sightedness or astigmatism). In most cases,
living in poor areas of the world by:
normal vision could be restored with glasses.
• preventing illnesses where possible.
• Women face a signiﬁcantly greater risk of
• distributing medicines and medical-chirurgical
vision loss than men – two-thirds of blind people
are women & girls.
• giving support and education to those who have
• 90% of blind people live in low-income countries.
irretrievably lost their sight, so that the individuals
• Yet 80% of blindness is avoidable – i.e. readily
can be re-habilitated in their communities.
treatable and/or preventable. • Restorations of sight and blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care. • Infectious causes of blindness are decreasing as a result of public health interventions and socio-economic development. Blinding trachoma now affects fewer than 80 million people, compared to 360 million in 1985. • Ageing populations and lifestyle changes mean that chronic blinding conditions such as diabetic retinopathy are projected to rise exponentially. • Without effective, major intervention, the number of blind people worldwide has been projected to increase to 76 million by 2020.