Village people: Stephen Shore reveals unseen photographs of Luzzara

Series documenting the Italian village of Luzzara
Published by Stanley/Barker, a new limited-edition book features never-before-seen photographs from Stephen Shore’s 1993 series documenting the Italian village of Luzzara
(Image credit: press)

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.’

A woman sitting on bicycle

Luzzara was first made famous by another American photography master, Paul Strand, forty years earlier. Although Shore was admittedly familiar with his work, he explains, ’I was not interested in producing a re-photographic survey’

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The longest river in Italy

Luzzara residents gather by the Po, the longest river in Italy

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Moonflowers bloom in the remains

Moonflowers bloom in the remains of a dilapidated building

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The buildings surrounding the town’s main square

The buildings surrounding the town’s main square, pictured, remained virtually unchanged between Strand and Shore’s projects despite a four decade gap

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A key feature of Italian life, at least to my New World eyes

‘A key feature of Italian life, at least to my New World eyes, is the presence of the traditional within the modern,’ says Shore

(Image credit: press)

The boldly printed shirts that seem to shriek colour even in black and white

Although little has changed in the town, Shore’s images of Luzzara feel distinctly nineties – see the boldly printed shirts that seem to shriek colour even in black and white

(Image credit: press)

Such as decorative wrought iron

Shore honed in on architectural details prevalent in the town, such as decorative wrought iron

(Image credit: press)

Bicycles are an omnipresent feature of Luzzara

Bicycles are an omnipresent feature of Luzzara

(Image credit: press)

Light and shadow come to the fore

Light and shadow come to the fore in Shore’s photographs

(Image credit: press)

Farms and landscapes

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’

(Image credit: press)

The subjectivity of my vision, supplement Strand’s work

‘My aim, then, was to produce a companion volume to Un Paese,’ says Shore, ’to produce a group of pictures, which to the limit of the subjectivity of my vision, supplement Strand’s work’

(Image credit: press)

INFORMATION

Published by Stanley/Barker, £35, edition of 1000. For more information, visit the Stanley/Barker website (opens in new tab)