We met at the beggining of the sixties at the Statale University of Milan, brought together by eretic readings: Arno Schmidt, Le Cleziò, Sanavio, Cortazàr,..and music: jazz and ancient music together, by surrealism too. His journey went on looking for other paths and other worlds, sufism one of the key directions.

Neurophisiologists say that while in young people there’s an explosion of synaptic connections, in the passage to adulthood half of these connections die off, discarded by the darwinian selection of the more useful.
But this implies the reduction of plasticity, an increasing insensibility, even blindness to new ideas and new paths.
Ventura’s research is also an effort to rivitalize the possibilities we’ve lost with that selection, pushing us to have a glimpse of worlds different from the daily one we’ve been reduced to.

There’s an interpretation of quantum theory by Everett that, although extreme, is taken seriously by many phisicists, the many-world interpretation:
it starts from the uncertain state of a quantum particle, say spin-up or spin-down, and the fact that only the interaction with a classical system that destroys the state-the measure apparatus, can show us the state.

Everett’s solution is to postulate that at every measure the particle doesn’t somewhat arbitrarialy choose wich state to show us, but that both choices are equivalent hence true. So every interaction gives way to two different unverses. Again and again, generating an infinity of worlds. And it is exactly this infinity that makes the theory both controversial and unpalatable.
But if we go on to consider what happens to this moltitude of worlds the appearance of a divergent series is not a given. Thare’s one not so weird possibility of an evolution shaped by the environmental pressures toward common or similar characters, so reducing many differences.
This is surely more interesting of the classic view of the many-world scenery, and moreover is open to a comparison and interaction with our daily reality, unforeseen but immutable.

Ventura’s photographs may be seen as pointing to this scenery: gardens populated by evanescent fairies, undefined persons with more dimensions than the apparent ones, towns and landscapes refusing immutability.
They make us feel the weight of the worlds that could have been and in the meanwhile they free us from the chains of the world that we appear to perceive.

Paolo Di Marco, from the article ‘Fulvio Ventura, Sagacity e il Multiverso’, Poliscritture, November 3, 2021

Oh, look!
And nothing else to utter.
Iminox, collectors of photographs

Fulvio . . . was trying to be soft with us, he would reach a level of tenderness.

Then clearly something held him back.
I won’t say he was abrupt . . . but Fulvio was unique.
He would give in and then step back
Andrea Abati, founder of the Dryphoto Gallery, Prato, Italy

Fulvio Ventura

Photography, when successful, can only make beautiful what it portrays. An explanation, that is an added verbal discourse can try to modify its ethic and/or esthetic value. I do not mean here photography generally speaking, in all its possible forms, from road signs to pornography, trough weddings albums and entomological macroscopic images, but that kind of photography which find its final setting in some museums or in the acid-free cardboards of some private collectors.

When I was a child I hoped to see fairies. I asked my mother if fairies exist and she replied “They exist for those who believe”. I thought: if I try to see a fairy, a genie, a gnome, and I believe they exist, and indeed I’m sure they can exist there, for me, then I’ll see one. I tried to believe it firmly: I knew this was the magic to be able to see them. I thought that they could be seen more easily in the shade of a hedge, at dusk, or at other times on the bank of a stream, at midday on a summer day.

Slowly, growing up, I did not want to completely abandon this illusion and I still do not accept to be completely disappointed, and even if I do not see anything alive, while walking through the countryside I come across patches and particular hedges that, I am sure, hide apparitions.

This is where I wanted to come. I had never found similar sensations in photographs or images. This is the first time. Fulvio Ventura’s photographs capture what I have always sought: the corners of nature where, if you look closely, something is about to manifest itself.

Giovanni Jervis, psychiatrist

Researcher of the forms of landscape according to a taste and method almost animistic, creator of images which, given the formal and technical research, hold dialogues with the graphics of ancient tradition, Fulvio Ventura for many years has devoted his main attention to nature and gardens. Other themes are also present in his work, from humanized landscapes to the human figure: still, the vegetal kingdom seems to hold, in his work, a central and meaningful place.

With a refined slowness Ventura builds vegetal scenarios made of full and empty spaces, of marks, tracings, crossings, visual paths, almost metaphors of the complexity of the world entrusted to the trees, bushes, grass, skies, mists, paths, rocks, and waters.

In this work of uninterrupted observation, often based on the insistent study of the ‘motive’, to borrow a word used by Cezanne, on the obsessive verification of the forms, lights, and shadows, Ventura made use for a long time and with great skill of black and white, very  interesting method in order to draw, trough photography (black and white in photography does not draws only the subject, but, he draws, we could say, himself), and  lately  he came to the colors, of which he makes use not so much to define the field, but again to register some signs.

In virtue of his uninterrupted quest of signs, clues, and trails through which he tries to decipher an enigma, Ventura’s photography presents itself as a dense whole of short and piquant poems, not an uninterrupted narrative, but the sum of several fragments which, perhaps, collected together they could point out some meanings.

His work, although built through photographs, (seemingly the most ‘real’), is ruled by a feeling of mystery, of a dilated question. His is it’s a kind of writing whose alphabet is hard to single out,  and that certainly speak to us not only of places, be they woods, planes or gardens, but also, and perhaps above all, silently of peoples, apparitions, thoughts,  fears.

Roberta Valtorta, historian and critic of Italian photography

I was not at all surprised when the author of these photographs, Fulvio Ventura, told me that many people, while going through and observing them, were dismay. Not so much by the photographs themselves, but because of the recurring theme of the wood. A wood where man is absent, except in the areas whose continuity he broke off.

Before the genocide by paganism, the wood bred and protected for our world, Greek at first, then Latin, and also the gods, nymphs and satyrs, just like it kept breeding for the northern peoples, even after the fall of paganism, Oberon and Titania, the Nibelungen, wizards and fairy who found their space in poetry.

While the author was running on in front of my eyes his photographs, I happen to linger on a figure, a face drawn by a rock, the way vegetation arrange itself. From the drawing, from the chiaroscuro which the bark draws on the trunk, is the effect of light and shade which translates in a language for us perceptible the humanized shapes of the gods.

Those people who look at a wood with distrust, as an outside which in their minds inspire only fears, will never become aware of its secret forms, the apparitions, the epiphany, the very ones which drove the author of these photographs to search and find them inside the drawing of lights and shades.

Ippolito Pizzetti, landscape painter and essayist

In this book Fulvio Ventura allow us to travel inside his dreaming thoughts. Up to this point photography books led us to a well define reality: a village, a certain kind of people, certain monuments. Documentation was their only admitted aim. But already Paris de nuit by Brassai, (1932), Paris des Rêves, by Izis (1950), allowed us to share the poetic universe of their author. And Henri Cartier-Bresson at the beginning of Images à la sauvette (1932), admitted his own subjectivity reminding the reader that “the images of his book do not claim to give a general idea of the look of one or another place”. This evolution found a very aware realization among some young photographers. In France I would mention Contretemps by Arnaud Class (1978). In his work Fulvio Ventura takes this process to the its greatest essentiality.

The story that Ventura narrates to us is the story of an unusual kind. We find mysterious voids as much as enigmatic presences. Like the ones of his dreams, these images are the product of Fulvio Ventura mind and yet they are unknown to him, as coming from somewhere else. They are to him at the same time extraordinarily inward and extraordinarily extraneous. Photographic art has the privilege among all others to compare at once the artist to his own creation as though it were someone else’s. This situation is at the same time difficult and fertile. For Ventura these images are coming to life from two horizons that elude him: the one of objective reality, different, alien to himself, and the one of the unconscious substrata of his thinking, just as unknown to himself. They are at the confluence of two overflows.

And it is here that his clearness of mind watches over, grasping them immediately and trying to put them “together in some kind of sequence”. That’s why Ventura collects, among all his photographs, the one which better withstand the erosion of looking. He leaves them untouched, their quality at the same time undefinable and irreducible, similar to the loose pages of a lost good novel. Like the loose parts of a world that should be coherent elsewhere, in an inaccessible absolute. But endless parts will be missing forever, their thread lost. Ventura, facing these images, is not more ahead than any of us. They are the mystery of a mystery. Looking at them we can verify the basic definition by Diane Arbus: A photograph is a secret about a secret.

Enigmatic fragments of a very unusual story, Ventura chose them among many because they were profoundly intimate and closely concerning to him. And, although he ran across them by chance, they were adhering to him like the familiar objects ‘’that stick to our soul”. Unlike others, he dared to think that these could touch other people. He wants to share a very secret emotion, betting that it will be, and already is, also our own emotion. And this without any comment betraying the main and fundamental solitude of each photograph.

And the mystery itself here becomes the main driving power of our journey. We are never in the place at the end of our journey, but the one trough which we go toward another uncertain place. Like Dante, in the first canto of the Inferno, had to become lost in a dark forest before finding his own path, so we have to walk under the terrifying look of the chimeras and heraldic beasts watching over the gates the of the underworld. We cross narrow paths bristling with arrows, stifling hothouses full of hallucinogen cactuses. And these dangers alternate with great open spaces, uninhabited parks at whose hedges shines the window of a solitary house. Unusual and elusive characters, barely seen, are the bearers of a sign, a message. We follow them on the banks of a river and in the passageways of the subway. They drag us on an endless treasure hunt which is perhaps only an illusion. Here the clue and the case mingle so they drive the detective crazy.

At times someone suddenly faces us. Is the evil genius, now materialized, who leads the saraband? But we only see a gentleman hidden behind dark classes, the mocking smile of a young girl, the astonishment of a big infant, quickly vanished. And the chase speeds up, across plains pelted by rain, until the images vanish in the twilight… Thus we sailed, we wondered and learned from one photograph to the next, and we connected one by one, without ever breaking their silence nor defiling their solitude.

Jean Claude Lemagny historian of photography, director of the department of photography of the French National Library

The landscape – urban and natural – has been a central subject of Fulvio Ventura photographic work. Starting in the early seventies his research led him to deepen the study of it, documenting those courses which transform the land and the social, urban, architectural environment of the Bel Paese in a perennial ground of contrast. The growing awareness of environmental themes in Ventura merged with a more and more mature artistic sensitivity, which led him to the assertion of an original artistic consciousness. For many years, through photography, Ventura also strived to make relevant the cultural and political responsibilities about certain alarming changes of the territory, where with the criticism tied to specific geographical conditions, goes side by side the problem of preserving an historical, artistic and unique landscape. A fight which today should coincide with the defense from excessive cement and invasive tourism. On these previous statements Ventura expanded his work for the Museum of XXI century Arts, the MAXXI. An inquiry which tends not so much to depict the Italian countryside as to grasp its critical points, the emptiness spread in its unfathomable beauty.

Francesca Fabiani, director contemporaneous photography, ICCD, 2007

Fulvio Ventura, video-interview about his work on Venice, on the occasion of the exhibition Landscape risk, 2007

Among the various topics suggested I decide to deal with excessive tourism which is rightly considered among the dangers for the landscape. I chose Venice because was a kind of hyperbolical crescendo of interest and enthusiasm. How big is the danger it goes without saying, and the biggest danger is for Venice to be no more inhabited by Venetians. I also liked the challenge, we have seen so many images of Venice that it seemed a glove thrown to me so that I would do something more, a different approach. I do not believe that photography might have a role in inspiring greater awareness. In front of the inevitable path of events I do not know how it could stand in the way, which consciousness might awaken. Beauty must be more in the mind of the onlooker, photography doesn’t create consciousness, each of us rediscover what is already inside us (…) Still, now and then we should stop, stop the filtering system and look around with a somewhat virgin look.

Fulvio Ventura, conference-projection at the Faculty of  Architecture, Polytechnic University, Milan, Italy, 1994

Ladies and gentlemen,
I accepted with pleasure professor Nava’s invitation to give a lecture with slides, manly, I should say, for selfish reasons. In fact for about twenty years, faithful to the saying “baker do your job”, I always refused to comment upon or to explain the work I was involved in, because I believe that exist a visual thinking different and complementary to verbal thinking and not reducible to it, just as no one would dream of pureeing a good plate of spaghetti unless the person who is supposed to eat it is totally unable to chew: at this point, though, I believe that he won’t give a damn about pureed spaghetti, and the logic of his meals would be completely different from ours. To make myself clear I was convinced that to describe verbally and to represent visually were to complementary activities like eating and drinking. I am also no certain how big a role laziness had in my choice; I didn’t have to wait for the results and they were tragic. In short, the least disagreeable result was of being misunderstood. Now I realize that you are taking your final exams and the reason for you to come here is to gain some insight, and you are right. Therefore, I now offer you something useful: one word of advice for your future career of college graduates: do not let yourself be labelled as equivocal or limitative professionals.

To go back to myself, if my autonomous photographic work about landscape was concerning what was left of a nature which I won’t call virgin but still not so degraded by human intervention so that it could be seen and photographically represented as a place of “apparitions”, quote on quote, well shortly I found myself labelled as a photographer of gardens. I will not say the label did not have its positive sides; to be asked to photograph gardens helped me to survive. As far as I am concerned, though, my work was rather more extensive and complex.

I will explain: one of the founding fathers of photography, Alfred Stieglitz, during the twenties, took several photographs of clouds and titled them Equivalents, but I am not aware that he took the trouble to diffusely and verbally explain to what those images were equivalent. Perhaps because he had already gained some fame as a portrait’s photographer, nobody ever dreamed to label him a meteorologist.

Now the title Equivalents can be applied without problem to a large part of photography which was able to combine formal knowledge, an adequate technique and a visionary quality. I do not know if some of you were here last year too and attended the lecture-show of Gabriele Basilico. I don’t believe that Basilico would object if someone would define his photographs equivalent, rather than see them as a sort of illustrative architectural-urbanistic-sociological tables.

I will therefore try to explain something about equivalence, specifically of my photographs, starting from the exotic and slightly pretentious title and the subtitle which makes my story more modest and reasonable. Lon, Sien, Jen: in Chinese Dragons, Immortals and Men.

The photographs were taken in two geographical areas: in the South of France, that is Drome, Vaucluse, Var and Haute Provence and, in Italy, on the Piedmont shore of Lake Maggiore, especially on the territory that was the wartime partisan republic of Ossola. What do Chinese dragons have to do with it? Well, if I lean out of my study window what I see before my eyes, across the sheet of water of the lake, is a flawless specimen of a dragon, although devoid of a leg: and of his amputation I highly suspect human intervention. For those of you who are somewhat familiar with the Chinese doctrine of Feng Shui, everything should be enough clear. For those among you who are not at all acquainted, because of time constraint I will limit myself to a couple of quotations and a small bibliographic information. But in order to avoid right now more misunderstandings like the one of the Ventura-botanist, I want to make this clear right now: I am not an expert of Feng Shui, in fact if anyone is more knowledgeable, I will be happy to stay in touch with him in the future.

Yet, before talking again about Feng Shui, I believe it is appropriate to read to you a short writing by Ceronetti, included in the collection of articles and essays bearing the title La carta e’ stanca (The paper is tired) published in the seventies, and in my opinion still very valid, although I cannot say the same about Ceronetti of the most recent years.

So, here is Ceronetti in the seventies.
A tree without Gods, without fate, without transcendent meanings, is already a dead tree. Against the destructive passion of the deconsecrated man, it is defenseless.
If, in a courtyard, there is a cedar of Lebanon older than the Pyramids which impedes eleven lawyers, nine business men, three dentists one photographer, one pediatrician from parking their cars, it is immediately cut down. But if the cedar of Lebanon is connected with the belief that, if it is cut, then the whole building will collapse, because together with the tree the genius of the place will also die, reverent fear will prevent his being cut.
Man withdrawn from the sacred can only do what is doing; do not ask him to honor what for him is not an obscure and unforeseeable reality. Haudricort and Hedin’s belief that all the trees grown right now were originally sacred, and for this reason only, they survived, should be retained. At the apex of secularization there is only destruction.
So little power has reason in human actions, that the destruction of trees goes on, even though reason, awaken from its sleep, is screaming that this destruction has to stop. Ecological rationalism asserts that we have to save the
green (but what is the green?) otherwise the air becomes unbreathable and great is its amazement on seeing that its advice for survival bears no results. Survival does not concern concretely the human soul: the answer of heart is icy cold. What we are looking for is not the survival of the species (but what is the species?), is a meaning to life.
Trees are not the
green: they are “our big immovable brothers”, a hairy, moist and horned people, whose distinctive feature, inconceivable for men, is a boundless goodness. They cannot survive without an unselfish devotion: we only frightened them. And ecology will fail, because its mental horizon is not different, deep down, from the one of the destroyers.

Let me explain: It is not Ceronetti intention to write a manifest in order to start a new ecology based on mythology or religion. Nor I want to be its illustrator. It all depends on how much time and space one wants to give to the rationality we have in ourselves. If in you prevail a rational attitude, nothing prevents you from considering Ceronetti writing as a splendid metaphor. On the other hand, if you do no mind a more freak-happy go lucky attitude nothing prevents you, on the first sunny weekend from going to some wooded area free from too many tourists and boy scouts and putting to your walking ego a nice pair of Husserl parenthesis and like a big mystic insect finally pull out your (metaphorical) antennas and have a good time.
But our rationalist friend doesn’t let go: metaphor of what? he’ll ask me. It’s true, it’s a matter of taste, and the rationalist is also “an honourable citizen”, as the Shakespearian Anthony would say.

Time is running out and let’s try to make it short: behind all this there two fundamental attitudes regarding the cosmos, either the world is κόσμος, cosmos, that is to say beautiful, according to the Greek etymology, is a good thing, as is written in the Genesis, or is something similar to a ball of dung according to a whole sect of cosmos haters way more numerous in the western culture than one can imagine, and is not limited to it. Personally, since I was a child, I had chosen the first hypothesis and therefore I can talk about this one only. And in the minds of the family of cosmos lovers, to quote Marx, a ghost willingly wanders. Is the idea of the Anima Mundi (the Soul of the World), or if we prefer of a cosmos alive and well (a soul which can easily divide itself into a plurality of souls). Such vision of the world it not so far from our own thinking: I believe that it was deeply rooted in that very classic Greece which gave birth to the beginnings of the western science. (See The Homeric Hymns).

Unfortunately, I have to rush a bit, our time is running out and your attention span has been tested long enough. Indeed, I will not only run, but jump. And here I can jump back to Feng Shui: For those who do not know, wat is it? Very briefly is an interpretation of the cosmos in terms of Ch’i.

The Ch’i is the active energy which runs through forms. As such is responsible for the forms mutations, which is a distinctive feature of all the living beings, the earth included.
The Ch’i acts at all levels. At the human level is the energy running through the meridians, of the body acupuncture. At the agricultural level is the power, which if not stagnant, yields fruitful crops. At the climate level is the energy carried by winds and waters.

In Tao Magic (1975, p.3), Lazlo Legeza explains the Ch’i as follows:
The Ch’i, the Vital Force, permeates the Taoist world. Is the Cosmic Spirit which gives life and infuses itself in all things, giving energy to mankind, life to nature, motion to water, growth to plants. It is exhaled from the mountains, where the spirits reside, taking form of clouds and mists, therefore the wavy motions of the clouds, the mist, and the air imbued with the smoke which exhales from burning incense is a typical representation of the Ch’i in Chinese art.

Take notice of the importance given to the clouds and to the mist, feng and shui, they form the dragons in the air. The dragon draws a Ch’i course-line like the tiger, his second lead, does. Now nothing prevents you from giving a similar explanation in terms of electromagnetism. It really looks, based on reports from western science, that the earth is crossed over by mutable electromagnetic meridians. But talking about dragons, according to the answer given by a computer, (who, then had programmed it?) to a geologist friend of mine, is more beautiful. And above all, this concept opens the way to that attitude regarding the world so well described by Walter Friedrich Otto in The Greek Gods.
In the Greeks world, divinity doesn’t rule natural events as a sovereign power: but reveals oneself in the forms of nature itself, as their essential being. If in other cultures miracles happen, in the Greek spirit the greatest miracle takes place because is able to see objects trough living experience in such a way that they can disclose to them the venerable outlines of the divine, without losing anything of their natural reality.

Shall we become phrenetic as a video clip? Then from Greece let’s go back to China and we shall summon the Immortals: Chinese Taoist tradition. Eight are the most famous, but it seems that there are many more. For those who want to know more, I will refer you to the great book by Kristopher Schipper, The Taoist body. Here is enough to say that that they seem to have a happy disposition, move at ease in the air and tend to keep proper distance from human beings but, if invited, they gladly take part in festivities and banquets, although invisible or under strange appearances. But do they have anything to do with what was said before? A good question. Any how I will read to you what Shitao, a Chinese painter and theorist from the eighteen century, wrote In his book about painting, chapter 11, paragraph 6, titled Vertigo:
In it is the vision of a universe inaccessible to mankind, without roads to reach it, like are the mountains of Bohai, Penglai and Fanghu; here only the Immortals can dwell, the common man cannot fathom it; is the vertigo, just as exists in the natural universe; in order to express it in painting one has to portrait rugged peaks, precipices, suspension bridges, extraordinary depths.

And with this nostalgia of time past we look at the external world, our gaze becomes an ethical feeling, the possible way to search and relate places that we cannot longer recognize and that denies us any ability to understand them, as though they were fallen under an evil and science fiction like spell which swept them away.

Among the tangled threads of the forever the same, of the indifferent repetition in the shapeless space, kingdom of analogy and quantity, photography can, through fragments and intuitions, small variations of the light, the evidence of a color, the details of a facade, the features of a face, an unexpected space, transforms for us all this in small certainties, in small worlds to be joined together in order to mark out a possible path as if they were Little Thumb’s pebbles.

I think that we can start the projection or, if you wish, the magic lantern.

Anna de Lorenzi, Daniele and Christel Bortolan, Bruno Bortolan and Julie Armando, Lorenzo Camocardi, Giulia Zorzi, Beatrice Hepp, Aurora Bortolan, Kati Haschert, who collaborated on the edition of this site, close this small collection of quotes with a reflection by Walter Benjamin, particularly appreciated by Fulvio Ventura, taken from the book One-way road:

When somebody very closed to us dies, something happens in the following months that, however much we would have wished to share it with the dead, it seems that could have only matured thanks to his distance/remoteness. We say goodbye to him, at the end, in a language that already he cannot comprehend anymore.