Published by Hatje Cantz. Text by Laura Gasparini, Francesco Zanot.
In his photographs, Olivo Barbieri (born 1954) depicts inhabited environments in such a way that unexplored facets of reality come to light. Urban centers in China or America dominate his series, alongside locations such as the Dolomite Mountains, the Alps or Capri as well as waterfalls in Canada, Argentina and Zimbabwe. From 2003 to 2013 he photographed more than 40 cities and megacities worldwide. One of the distinctive features of his photographs is an extremely low depth of focus that creates the impression that they depict miniature models. This feeling of estrangement is further intensified by his lengthy exposures of artificial illumination. Barbieri produced his first nightlight photographs in the early 80s in Italy. Ersatz Lights presents all of the artist's night landscapes for the first time.
Published by Aperture. Introduction by Christopher Phillips.
Site Specific is a summary of Italian photographer Olivo Barbieri’s (born 1954) ten-year project to record the world’s cities in aerial photographs. On the one hand, the book offers remarkable documentation, by one of today’s most thrilling image-makers, of 25 cities throughout the world. On the other, it is a narrative of Barbieri’s ever-evolving approach to photography and his thoughts about the nature of the medium. Presented chronologically, the book begins with the distinctive “tilt-shift” photographs of Italian cities with which Barbieri first established his reputation, and which launched a popular stylistic movement for selective-focus photographs. As the series continued, with portrayals of cities all over the world, Barbieri introduced other devices and approaches to “distort” perceived reality--such as playing with color, registration and the deletion or discoloring of particular details--to dramatic effect. The result is a remarkable photo essay about twenty-first-century urban space and about photography itself. Stunningly designed and presented in a luxuriously large format, the book is introduced by Christopher Phillips.
Over 250 million years old, the Dolomites of northeastern Italy are one of the world's most sublime mountain ranges. For Italian photographer Olivo Barbieri (born 1954), skilled at the creative exploitation of photographic kinks of perception, the ragged and pockmarked surfaces of the Dolomites present an ideal subject. Barbieri interprets the mountains as almost sentient, mobile forms, bestowing upon them something of the eerie toy-town touch of his previous project and monograph, The Waterfall Project (2008). As that work showed, Barbieri feels that it is almost impossible to photographically compel the majesties of nature to astound us as they once did. In the outline of the summits of the Dolomites he sees a “story of the world seen upside down,” and portrays them as no longer instances of the sublime in nature, but rather as marvelous entities colonized by commerce. “Seascapes, great waterfalls, mountains and historic towns are fragile theme parks,” Barbieri declares; “Entertainment has virtually replaced the sublime. Views of megalopolises can, by size and consideration, compete with nature in the human imagination, in terms of importance.” Dolomites Project invites the viewer to marvel at nature, all the while qualifying its wonders with the nagging edge of artifice.
It's impossible not to think, even upon close inspection, that Olivo Barbieri's photographs aren't images of obsessively detailed architectural maquettes. The trees seem plastic, the cars resemble toys and the buildings look as though they would fall over if you so much as breathed on them. The Waterfall Project brings this unreal quality to landscape, specifically to such touristy waterfalls as Victoria (Zambia/ Zimbabwe), Iguazu (Argentina, Brazil), Khone Papeng (Laos/Cambodia) and Niagara (USA/Canada). In these disorienting images, the spectators on the crowded viewing platforms look like M & M's in a candy bowl, a cluster of toytown Pointillistic color against a backdrop of watery froth. The results are vertiginous and wonderfully bizarre. Critic Walter Guadagnini writes in the introduction: There is an evident technical expedient in this, and it is the choice to photograph from above, to place oneself in a privileged and anomalous condition. In the past, this expedient already gave rise to numerous readings, which range from acknowledging the historical roots of this perspective (going back all the way to Nadar's photographs from a hot-air balloon) up to the socio-political implications deriving from 9/11."