Massimo Listri: Perspectives

Throughout time, the physical spaces that we inhabit, such as residences, libraries, or churches, tell us about our history, culture, and desires. Long after the designers and builders of these spaces perish, the architecture remains as often enigmatic monuments of the human drama and events that transpired within its interiors.

Florentine photographer Massimo Listri is a master of capturing these enigmatic interior spaces. Throughout three decades as a photographer, Listri has recorded some of the most awe-striking and elaborate interiors of renowned architecture worldwide. Through his art, Listri captures the genius and eloquence of architecture and design. With a remarkable eye and a recognizable aesthetic, detailed and accomplished in his focus on architectural photography, Listri’s pictures function similarly to portals. The images transport the viewer from the sacred, treasure-laden art of the Vatican to the interior halls of German and Italian palazzos brimming with history, to the libraries of the privileged with their books, maps, and documents of scholarship. Ultimately, Massimo Listri’s photography invites the viewer into a world of grand architectural wonders, demonstrating the pinnacle of creative human achievement.

Portrait of Massimo Listri
Portrait of Massimo Listri

The distinguished Italian photographer is no stranger to beautiful, historical art and architecture. Born in the iconic Renaissance city of Florence in 1953, Listri comes from a lineage embedded in the tradition of fine art and design; as an example, his brother is an architect. Listri began his excursion into the field of photography at an early age. By the time he was 17, he was already contributing photographs to the pages of various magazines that published articles on art and architecture. While enrolled in university, Listri further expanded his knowledge of design by studying Arts and Letters. Meanwhile, he collaborated with design publications, strengthening his enduring relationship and mastery of art, architecture, and interior design.

Continuing to pursue his passion for the arts, in 1981, Massimo Listri would become one of the founding members of the internationally recognized magazine FMR, along with Franco Maria Ricci and Vittorio Sgarbi. FMR garnered recognition as an influential magazine focusing on the fine arts. The magazine had high-profile admirers such as Federico Fellini and Jacqueline Kennedy, the latter of who called it “the most beautiful magazine in the world.” Promoting artistic heritage and building a chic following based around exquisite design, the magazine also touted some of the most distinguished contributors of any published text, including Jorge Luis Borges and Umberto Eco. For two decades, FMR magazine served as the primary outlet where Massimo Listri presented his body of work. There, Listri explored the utmost extravagant interiors and built environments ranging from a broad period of history and traversing cultures worldwide.

Massimo Listri, Hermitage San Pietroburgo VI, 2017
Massimo Listri, Hermitage San Pietroburgo VI, 2017, Archival Lambda Color Photograph

In Listri photographs, the viewer is afforded an intimate view of interiors including libraries, art museums, convents, monasteries, ancient banks, and other architectural wonders. Listri records interiors with a refined sense of beauty. With his foundation of classical studies, Massimo Listri perceptively details the sumptuous curvature and linework of architecture, which renders interiors with a deafening silence. Thus, these large-scale color prints invite a moment of contemplation from the viewer.

“Libraries look back over a long and turbulent past. They shape a present tailored to humankind’s needs for information, communication, and entertainment and look ahead to an important role in the future. For humankind – unless it loses its senses entirely – will always want to preserve is Memory of the World.” – Memory of the World, George Rupelt.

Taschen, the renowned art book publisher, has published a spectacular large-format book on his libraries to rave reviews. In his libraries and his other work, the examples Listri uses of grandiose architecture draw the viewer into a profound sense of awe and contemplation because they are meticulous works of art. The complexities of design and execution demonstrate the capacity for human ingenuity to reach genius, boundless limits. These masterful spaces, designed through a mix of historical tradition, stylish innovation, and exquisite elegance, are frequently the stages for human interaction. Historically, these spaces were intended to house critical meetings between influential individuals or store some of the most prized valuables of any culture, allowing for an air of mystery to remain within.

Massimo Listri, Biblioteca Di Sainte Genevieve, Parigi, 2005
Massimo Listri, Biblioteca Di Sainte Genevieve, Parigi, 2005, Archival Lambda Color Photograph

Massimo Listri is a Renaissance photographer. He creates his large-format files by carefully placing his tripod with a fixed lens and uses a beautifully crafted Deardorff camera. He takes long exposures where the negative is thoroughly saturated with deep, resonant color. Listri’s photographs exhibit a profound understanding of the spaces he is fascinated by. The interiors he chooses range from the opulent grandeur of the past to places undergoing rehabilitation with peeling patinas and crumbling facades to the present’s minimalist pure architecture. His interest spans recorded human history, from the 1400s to the present, resulting in the documentation of an extensive array of notable buildings and architecture.

In essence, Listri sees in architectural spaces endless wonders and beautiful visions and has found a way to translate these into stunning photographs. His love and fascination of the past, of the monuments that civilization builds, are powerful statements of the beauty, majesty, and humanity that history has preserved.

Massimo Listri, Musei Vaticani Biblioteca Apostolica II, 2005
Massimo Listri, Musei Vaticani Biblioteca Apostolica II, 2005, Archival Lambda Color Photograph