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Riccardo Zipoli: The Iranian literature and landscape


The web site of Riccardo Zipoli features some very amazing photos of Iranian landscape and people. I had previously read about Riccardo Zipoli and seen some of his photographs of Iran thanks to a report by Syma Sayyah (Riccardo Zipoli's Photos of Iran at Tehran's Silk Road Gallery). So when I found out about his web site, I took the opportunity and asked him to tell our readers about himself and how he became tangled with the Iranian literature and landscape!  Why was he attracted to study Persian literature?  What inspired him to travel so extensively in Iran?  What does he find in Iranian landscape?...

                    Riccardo Zipoli


About myself


I was born in Prato (near Florence, Tuscany, Italy) in 1952. I spent my childhood there and then moved to Venice to go to university. I became interested in Persian language and literature when I met my university professor (Gianroberto Scarcia). He took me to Iran in 1972, and I fell in love with this marvelous country at first sight. Since then the love for travelling in Iran has never abandoned me. I took my degree in Persian Language and Literature in  June 1975 and since November 1975 I have been teaching Persian Language and Literature at Venice University. I was director of the 'Dipartimento di Studi Eurasiatici' of the Venice University from 1990 until 1996 and from 1999 until 2005.



I am mainly concerned with classical Persian poetry and my specialization is in the Indian style (my favorite poet is Bidel), but I have also worked on contemporary poetry (with translations of poems by Sepehri and Kiarostami into Italian). At the moment, I am carrying out extensive research in two fields: 1) the satirical and obscene Persian poetry; 2) the rhyme in Persian poetry.


I started to take photographs during my first trip to Iran in 1972 (since then I have visited Iran many times). I held my first one-man show of photographs at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in October 1976. A year later I exhibited my photographs at the 14th Sao Paulo Art Biennal and since then I have held many exhibitions.  In May 2005 I held an exhibition of my photographs in Tehran (Silk Road Gallery).



My explorations of the Persian landscape have been featured in photographic journals and books (for example, Verso Nondove/T Nkoj, Tehran, 1984; Un giardino nella voce, Florence, 1995; T shaqyeq hast/While Poppies Bloom, Tehran, 2005; Solitudini persiane, Bari, 2006). Over the last two years I have been working on a photographic project about Venice. The photographs from this project will be published in a book together with some lines by Bidel (Riccardo Zipoli, Venezia alle finestre, Marsilio, Venice, 2006) and will be shown in two exhibitions (15 December 2006-15 January 2007, Accademia di Spagna, Rome; March 2007, Ca' Foscari, Venice). An anthology of my photos is in The main corpus of my collection of photographs features the Iranian landscape and people. I have thousands of photographs from all parts of Iran, but my archives include photographs from many other countries (around 30) which I will gradually add to my web site.




About the Iranian landscape


When I visited Iran for the first time in 1972, I was struck by the singular nature of its landscape's inconstancy - so unusual for we Europeans. The variations were not bound up with the kind of contrast in environmental and physical conditions found in Europe. In Italy, for example, we go from the peaks of the Dolomites to the Po Valley Plain. In Persia there are also rocky mountains and paddy-fields, but we are used to this kind of difference and the impact is not so striking for us. What fascinates in Persia are the subtle variations introducing significant changes to the same image. Any landscape is just one of the many landscapes hidden in the first one. How often I have stopped in a place, attracted by the chance of a picture, only to discover that the initial impression was just one of several possible interpretations of that landscape and not even the best. Innumerable versions with tenuous but significant mutations really can be found in every view, generally due to the influences of two factors: light and the viewpoint.



By light I mean the sunlight, which cuts out deep sharp shadows. It has its own special corporeality in Iran. When this light spreads in the open space you feel its density and your eyes can run over its transparent volumes.  Light in Iran is not simply at the service of the landscape to exalt its forms, colors and volumes by mixing in and identifying with it. Light there has its own forms, colors and volumes just like a tree, garden or mountain. But unlike all the other elements in that landscape, light is subject to various kinds of rapid metamorphoses, undermining the internal balance of each image. You only need to consider its chromatic changes, the inconstant shadows of walls and plants, the chiaroscuro embroidery woven by clouds on the ground and in the sky. In the unique luminous world of Iran any one of these factors can vary the feel of a view.



What is technically called the viewpoint, i.e. the combination of the single elements as seen by the onlooker, also has this conditioning power. At times you only need to add to the visual field a branch, stone, piece of sky or plain to create more or less valid variations on the same theme. These details usually exercise little influence on the iconographic shape of untidy lush landscapes, but are crucial in the precise essential configuration of the typical Iranian landscape. In fact this landscape is made up of a few distinct separate elements, each well-defined and linked to the others by multiple - always clear and unequivocal - relations. In this bare context, the single element can change the logic of the whole game. The appearance of a small cloud, for example, and its dissolution into several parts, which often chase each other or are even recomposed before suddenly disappearing through a rapid movement, can suggest five or six different equally powerful images.



The acquired familiarity with this quality of the Iranian landscape could turn out to be useful in illustrating - if not actually penetrating - a specific aspect of the Iranian spirit, which often eludes the modern Western mentality and which has a clear and easily perceivable counterpart in nature: the tendency to create varied refined combinations through the differentiated juxtapositions of a few elements, as one can easily find in the Iranian music, poetry and miniature. I tried to highlight this tendency of the landscape in my photographs, in the hope to have identified and portrayed the most typically Iranian elements, i.e. the quintessence of that landscape,




Thanks to Riccardo Zipoli for sharing his experience with us!



... Payvand News - 9/21/06 ... --

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