The Reportage as Photography in Writing: The Chinese Reportages of Roland Barthes, Franco Fortini and Goffredo Parise

Ludovica del Castillo

Abstract


The writer's travel reportage and photography present, from both a theoretical and a practical point of view, many points in common. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the similarities and differences between the two arts, to demonstrate how the relationship between writing and photography is effective in the proposed reportages. The analyses reveal that the interaction between writing and photography leads to a more complex level of observation.

Specifically, this analogy has been applied to three Chinese reportages by three authors from the second half of the twentieth century: Roland Barthes, Franco Fortini and Goffredo Parise (the latter in opposition to the first two). Their journeys took place at different times: Fortini's journey dates back to 1955, followed by the publication of Asia Maggiore – a text accompanied by photographs by Fortini herself, which is an interesting reason to investigate the relationship between writing and photography – and then returned to China in 1972; Parise was in China in the spring of 1966, and in the same year he wrote the reportage Cara Cina; Barthes' journey dates back to 1974, reported in Carnets du voyage en Chine and in the article Alors, la Chine? In particular, Fortini and Parise can be considered, as proposed by Luigi Marfè, two typical “political anti-tourists”.

The starting point of the paper is the indication of the theoretical premises and the analysis of theories presented by Barthes in his text on photography, La chamber claire, and other theorists such as Peirce, Arnheim, Sontag, Benjamin. In particular, the following approaches – which have been included by Claudio Marra in the evolution of the photographic practice and then recovered by Silvia Albertazzi – have been applied: compositional neo-painting, the poetics of the decisive instant and the practice of filing, of particular interest because of its testimonial aspect. In the three reports these aspects have been traced and highlighted.

In addition to the application of the three approaches proposed by Marra, emphasis was placed on the testimonial value of photography and writing, with particular attention to the combination of the two arts and the value that this had in the reports analysed, focusing on the texts of Bertolt Brecht and Susan Sontag.

From the analysis of the Chinese reportages of these authors, many common points emerged, especially regarding the structural aspect of the texts and the use of photographic techniques in writing. In particular, the analysis highlights the close and also practical relationship between photography and writing.


Keywords


Italian contemporary literature; political writer’s travel reportage; Goffredo Parise; Franco Fortini; Italo Calvino

Full Text:

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/3363

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-24737

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