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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


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03/02/10 16:24

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

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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

“charity business”.

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

Western photography.

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.

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Philippe Dagen

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

Asia 64

65 Asia

Previous pages Typical landscape of the southern provinces Lipanshui, China, 2005 Left Wuang Nua Hospital. During a medical examination Lampang, Thailand, 2005

Asia 90

91 Asia

Jelez Kolev, 10 years old, during his ďŹ rst day at the school for the blind Varna, Bulgaria, 2006

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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.

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Blanco the Book