This chapter aims at shedding light on Luigi Ghirri’s engagement with maps throughout his photographic work, and especially in his famous Atlante (1973), from the perspective of recent map theory. In the first section of this chapter, I will analyse the role of cartography in the artistic, intellective and intimate world of Luigi Ghirri, showing how his works and writings express a ‘map-philia’ which is in clear contrast with the ‘map-phobia’ that strongly characterised the period in which he operated. In the second section, I will describe Ghirri’s photographic treatment of maps, arguing that it can be illuminated by the current theoretical interpretation of maps as embodied practices, labile objects and contingent events rather than as detached representations, powerful symbols and finite products. Ghirri’s map portraits, as well as his reflections on cartography, in fact, resonate with the phenomenological approaches of the so-called ‘post-representational cartography’, rather than with the political approaches of the so-called ‘critical or deconstructive cartography’. Subsequently, in the third section I will suggest that, on the basis of this attitude, Ghirri’s work on maps corroborates the hypothesis that a clear demarcation between a first ‘deconstructive’ (or ‘de-auratizing’) period and a second ‘reconstructive’ (or ‘re-auratizing’) period, often highlighted by Ghirri’s critics, could be refigured in a more balanced way. Following the recent reinterpretation of this divide advanced by Marina Spunta, I will argue that in the ‘first Ghirri’ as well as in the ‘second Ghirri’ maps are simultaneously deconstructed and affectively experienced. Furthermore, in the fourth section, I will propose a classification of Ghirri’s photographic map portraits based on the following five categories: map still-lifes, cartifacts, mapping practices, maps in contexts, and the life of maps. Across these categories, an evolution in the practice of photographing maps can be appreciated, which parallels the shift in focus from objects to places and landscapes which occurred in Ghirri’s work between the 1970s and the 1980s.
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