Denis Curti

The Blue Hour: Recording the Changing Light


Impressionists were given to painting the same subject at different times of day and night, to show the ways in which light, in its ceaseless evolvement, could transform environments, structures, landscapes, situations, and colors. And there to witness these innumerable variations were just as many eyes; and there are still those among us today who go in search of that world, finding ways to love and inhabit it. This is the history of an encounter, a fundamental relationship between man and environment, and man’s capacity to record the laws of this coexistence, because our vision itself—and how we perceive the world around us—is dependent on light. To perceive light, therefore, is to present oneself with the opportunity to create new codes, new alphabets, alternative grammars, and, in the case of this exhibit, powerful languages of expression. Luca Campigotto, who for years has centered his work around the contemplative value of light’s persistence, knows this well. “The vision of architecture that intrigues and incites me most is one that’s informed by expansive, panoramic views. I’m particularly interested in space as understood in terms of scenography. All of my work has moved in this direction, since the very beginning . . . My hope is that this twilight/nocturnal approach—which has always been my key to reading a place—will lead to evocative, original images that, ideally, will call to mind theatrical or cinematographic atmospheres”—so Campigotto wrote in his project description, when he decided to accept the invitation for an artist’s residency aimed at photographing the island of Capri. In his artistic expressions, making use over time of the latest technological equipment, Campigotto has succeeded in maintaining an open dialogue with the observer, calling us to complete his visions with our gaze. Only in that moment do his images belong to the world—because art, now more than ever, has a duty to disrupt, to stir our curiosity and excite our critical faculties, to hold every paradigm up for examination. Which is why the artist, like anyone involved in the cognitive and creative process, must engage in the act of sharing.

Like a watchman, Luca Campigotto stands guard over that delicate intimacy we discover in landscapes—an intimacy that, once revealed, has the power to transform itself into a mental snapshot, a metaphysical projection of an internal universe, as fortifying as it is hermetic and alluring. Before setting out on the path of photography, Campigotto studied modern history, graduating with a thesis on travel literature during the era of the great explorations. He remains fascinated with that realm of his early studies, and has forged his artistic identity by crossing borders, so much so that the challenge of travel has become the principal driving force behind all of his projects. Italo Calvino wrote: “It’s not the seven, or seventy-seven, wonders of a city that you appreciate, but the response a city gives to your questions.” This is precisely what Campigotto does in his photographs—whether shooting urban landscapes of the great metropolises like Chicago, New York, Tokyo, London, or the natural, wild landscapes of Lapland or the Atacama Desert in Chile. Like other of his contemporary photographers, Campigotto’s radar of inquiry has expanded to become ever more global in its scope, no longer limiting itself to physical locations—understanding travel not merely as a matter of moving from one place to another but as a mental state that engages the imagination before the body.

The images produced by Luca Campigotto during his stay in Capri are clear evidence of this approach, and constitute a whole new way of looking at this legendary island. In his photographs, predominantly captured at twilight, he transforms the landscape of Capri into the setting of a new voyage. A tale told through images that seek a correspondence between the objective world and our subjective feelings—one that takes its cue from the symbolist movement, which, at the turn of the twentieth century, emphasized the importance of elevating the spirituality present throughout the physical world though not readily visible to the human eye. Which is why, observing these images, we sense a convergence between the poetics of the Impressionists, with their ability to “distribute” colors and re-envision familiar landscapes through innovative techniques, and the harsh realism of German painter Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, whose masterful works are housed right here in Capri’s Certosa di San Giacomo. “Capri has all I need for a lifetime, with these rugged cliffs I so adore, with this tremendous, gorgeous sea,” the German painter claimed of his beloved island. Over the thirteen years he spent in Capri, Diefenbach tapped into a visionary symbolism, one in which light and all of nature’s elements played a fundamental role, filling his canvases with divine imagery, unblemished terrains, enchanting scenes, mystical and dream-like visions. The very same imaginative perceptions that we find in Campigotto’s photographs and that offer us a glimpse into other worlds—sensory quests and epiphanies that reveal themselves in untamed wilderness, in the marvel of a natural arch, in star-studded skies, and in the silence of buildings enveloped in dwindling light, at that moment just before sunset that heralds the passage from light to dark, the so-called Blue Hour. It’s a moment not unlike that ungraspable moment between wakefulness and sleep, a metaphor of mental space, of silence and contemplation, and also a bridge between reality and imagination, one that allows us to embark on forays into the world of magic and fairy-tale. In his reading of the world, Campigotto takes no interest in making documentary or realistic images; instead he seeks out narratives, constructing spaces dedicated to the imagination. In this sense, he creates backdrops against which new stories can be told—which he then links, transforming these brief narrative sequences into a collection of short stories, drawing out the empathetic and interactive quality of vision.


Essay for the volume The Blue Hour, Capri, 2019

copyright © 2013 Luca Campigotto

Luca Campigotto