The style of his photographs is at once ironic and sophisticated, sparse and provocative, rich with references to art history, eclectic outdoor settings in exotic locations and allusions to cinema that echo experiences as a young man studying at Cinecittà in Rome. The reason for the leading photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri, part of whose work is presented to the public through a highly innovative selection of images, both in terms of their setting and style, the fruit of the artist’s undeniable genius, as part of the exhibition “GIAN PAOLO BARBIERI: UNCONVENTIONAL” (runs until March 25, 2023), at 29 Arts in progress gallery, Milan.
Intimate, spontaneous shots of models and celebrities such as Eva Herzigova, Isa Stoppi, and Donatella Versace are on display, offset by iconic photographs created by Barbieri – one of Made in Italy’s most brilliant exponents – for some of the most famous advertising campaigns for Italian and international fashion brands such as Versace, Ferrè, Vivienne Westwood, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, and Armani.
Internationally recognized for his black-and-white photography, his subjects seem almost impossible in their stark complexity. Using color, Barbieri narrates his own personal and ironic interpretation of fashion and female beauty: the women in the photographs shown break free from the more normal poses of fashion photography and become for the occasion representatives of a new kind of unconventional elegance that reveals a more indifferent, sensual side.
The works presented, a combination of unseen portraits and hand-painted photographs, narrate the irreverence and creativity of the artist, a photographer for whom the arts have always represented an inescapable means of validating and supporting fashion, far beyond their use value. His studies and research were so extensive that, in a career spanning over 60 years and including more than a million shots, it would be difficult to find a single example without allusions, references or inspiration from the visual arts, the cinema and the great masters of art and photography.
Barbieri himself says characteristically: “I have always loved art, in all its incarnations. As a child, the inspiration of theater and cinema played an important role. By reading widely, studying classical art, looking at the great masters of the past, or simply looking around at what enlivened my environment, I cultivated my artistic eye. I imagined or painted in my head what I would like the result of this act to be, meticulously constructing my sets, always referencing, more or less explicitly, art, cinema, or architecture.’
The exhibition opens just a few days after the theatrical release of the first documentary film made about the life and work of Gian Paolo Barbieri, “The Man and The Beauty”, already awarded the Audience Award at the Biografilm Festival 2022 in Bologna.