Village people: Stephen Shore reveals unseen photographs of Luzzara

Village people: Stephen Shore reveals unseen photographs of Luzzara

A modest Italian village in the province of Reggio Emilia, Luzzara would likely still exist in relative obscurity if it were not for American photographer Paul Strand. Published in 1955, it was his photo-book, Un Paese: Portrait of an Italian Village, which first brought the rural commune to the fore.

Forty years later, Luzzara and its residents played muse once again as another American photography master, Stephen Shore, turned his lens on the townspeople, streets and squares. Now, a new limited-edition tome published by Stanley/Barker revisits the 1993 series, simply named after the town, including a number of never-before-seen photographs.

‘There was no way I could approach Luzzara as though I was not familiar with Strand’s work,’ explains Shore. ‘At the same time, even though I was going to Luzzara exactly forty years after Strand, I was not interested in producing a re-photographic survey.’

Although the town remained virtually unchanged over four decades, Shore’s images of Luzzara still feel distinctly nineties – see the boldly printed shirts that seem to shriek colour even in black and white. ‘A key feature of Italian life, at least to my New World eyes, is the presence of the traditional within the modern,’ says Shore. ‘My aim, then, was to produce a companion volume to Un Paese; to produce a group of pictures, which to the limit of the subjectivity of my vision, supplement Strand’s work.’

One could almost weave a multi-generational tale between his and Strand’s works. Says Shore: ‘In a certain way, Strand’s work does not need simple updating, because the kinds of people and farms and landscapes he photographed still exist in very much the same form today. But, they exist side by side with the modern world.’

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