The collection comprises the majority of the photographs taken as part of the innovative project entitled Viaggio in Italia (“Journey in Italy”), conceived by Luigi Ghirri and organized by Ghirri himself with Gianni Leone and Enzo Velati, and that were shown in 1984 at an exhibition at the Pinacoteca Provinciale in Bari (as well as later exhibitions in Reggio Emilia and Genoa). Some of them were published in a volume brought out by Quadrante in Alessandria, accompanied by an essay by Arturo Carlo Quintavalle and a text by Gianni Celati. The project is now considered a milestone in the history of contemporary Italian photography and the ideas that lay behind it can indeed be regarded as a sort of ‘manifesto’ of something that, born in the early eighties, was to become a fundamental tendency in the country’s photographic research over the course of more than twenty years and to earn an international reputation: what came to be known as the “Italian school of landscape.”
At the base of the project was the intention of creating a new ABC of the landscape, utilizing photography as an at once intellectual and emotional means of entering into relationship with the complexity of the outside world, in this case the Italian landscape, represented for such a long time and so laden with iconography, without rhetoric, without resorting to stereotypes and without hierarchies. As the jacket flap of the catalogue declared, Viaggio in Italia shows how “a generation of photographers, putting aside the myths of exotic travel, sensational reportage, formalistic analysis and presumed and forced creativity, has instead turned their gaze on the reality and the landscape that surround us. […] missing from these photographs is everything you find in the pages of newspapers and glossy magazines: no crime or gossip, no languid Venices, no miserable Neapolitan ground-floor apartments […].” Twenty photographers were involved in the project and many and varied were the themes they tackled, indicated and organized in the exhibition and the catalogue under a series of titles of a conceptual and poetic tone: As Far as the Eye Can See, Seafront, Margins, Of the Place, End of the Line, City Center, On the Threshold, Nobody in Particular, We Close at Sunset, The O of Giotto.
In 2004, twenty years after Viaggio in Italia, the Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea devoted an exhibition to the project (Racconti dal paesaggio. A vent’anni da Viaggio in Italia), along with a study book and a film, directed by Maurizio Magri and with a screenplay by Maurizio Magri and Vittore Fossati, entitled Viaggio in Italia. I fotografi vent’anni dopo.