UNDERCOVER #13: LUIGI GHIRRI
by Niki Leck


CCCP “Epica Etica Etnica Pathos” 1990 Virgin Records


Photo: Luigi Ghirri, 1990

Describing itself as an ‘emiliano’ melodic group (from Emilia-Romagna a geographic region of Italy) and pro-Soviet, CCCP marked a break with the past with their latest LP, anticipating to some extent the subsequent CSI (Independent Musicians Consortium) founded by Lindo Ferretti and Massimo Zamboni in ‘92. In this sort of “swan song” the fast songs and the rough instinct of punk gave way to a evocative, rich and varied production inspired by the master Frank Zappa.

 Recorded almost entirely live at an abandoned farmhouse in the countryside of Reggio Emilia, the natural echo of the everyday space replaces the glossy uniformity of modern recording studio. Recording and mixing were done in analog. "Epica Etica Etnica Pathos" is the summary of an accomplished artistic journey, where each of the four chapters proposes a fundamental component, from the gloomy and sad ecclesiastical inspiration to Italian folklore, from tango to dissonance, from the oriental music to military marches and Teutonic choirs.

 

This double LP released in 1990 represents a breakthrough also for the important collaboration between artists with different backgrounds. The Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri was called upon to produce the images for the publication of this disc.  The unique vision of one of the greatest photographers in Italian history emerges in this context, showing a relentless and cultured passion for the production of art in all its forms.

The same author says of this experience during a lecture at the University del Progetto in Reggio Emilia (shown in the recent edition of Quodlibet Lezioni di Fotografia): «… in these days I have to finish a job for a group that some of you may know, for their upcoming new album, they are called CCCP. For them, I’ve worked on the photography, the graphics, and thus to the overall design of the final object which is the disc».

This occasion provides an interesting reflection on the power of the media image, a lesson by the author on the evolution of the relationship between music and visual content in the design of a disc. Ghirri in this context speaks about the flattening derived from the obsession for portraits on the cover of major record labels and then wonders about this mechanism as a result of television culture that attempts to establish a direct relationship with the character as seen in the face with what is recognized. «The average consumer of LPs are aged between 16 and 24 years. And this age group usually consumes a lot of television. Ninety percent of their visual training was based on facial images of people. Rarely do we see different images on television but we always see the faces. So what is the image which you relate to the most? It’s a face. The tendency, therefore, is not to distance ourself from what is today’s standard. As for we don’t think, for example, ‘we only see faces, let’s put a different image, let’s put a cow’. No, the cow does not speak today…».

 

The author stresses the need to go against the trends, to create a synesthetic connection between audio and video, creating a unique project involving more people, a collective work not only with regard to the implementation, but also with regard to the structural interaction of sounds and images. «There are cases in which the problem of the relationship between the content of the music and the content of the cover becomes critical. As I said before, I recently worked on the cover of CCCP […] the group has always chosen a type of graphics, and a setting of the image, which is aggressive, seemingly random but actually much studied, so that even in this case we have thought of something completely different than portraits.»

The photographer also tells of the plans, corrections, and difficulties encountered in the realization of the cover, explaining that this is a type of work that comes together with the disc while recording, in close contact with the musicians and the music produced. «Everything about the packaging, and the overall communicative project, is resolved in the interaction between the photographer, the designer, the graphic artist and the artist himself.»

Luigi Ghirri and the CCCP give us another space for reflection, torn between desire for the past and the need for innovation, a voiceover extremely lucid in its perception of the relationship between society and the image that will affect the contemporary world more and more in the years to come. «Today, if you do not have multi-billion dollar structures that support you with t-shirts, gadgets, with tickets that can be bought at Banca Nazionale del Lavoro … but when has the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro ever bought tickets for rock concerts?»


© Music video 'Annarella' by CCCP, 1990

© 1990 Virgin Dischi S.r.l. / Courtesy Fondo di Luigi Ghirri

© All copyright remains with the photographer and property

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Undercover is a special issue dedicated to photographers and musical covers.