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Musée Magazine – Risk . issue 21 | Oliviero Toscani

Postato il 28.02.2019 da Commenti Commenti disabilitati su Musée Magazine – Risk . issue 21 | Oliviero Toscani


incredible enemies, fantastic opportunities

 Musee-Edition-21_COMPLETE_SPREADS_REV-5-11_Pagina_1 Musee-Edition-21_COMPLETE_SPREADS_REV-5-11_Pagina_2 Musee-Edition-21_COMPLETE_SPREADS_REV-5-11_Pagina_3 Musee-Edition-21_COMPLETE_SPREADS_REV-5-11_Pagina_4 Musee-Edition-21_COMPLETE_SPREADS_REV-5-11_Pagina_5 Musee-Edition-21_COMPLETE_SPREADS_REV-5-11_Pagina_6


ANDREA BLANCH: It’s so nice to speak to you after all these years! The issue that I’m working on now concerns the concept of “risk” – I thought that you might be able to relate to that with your advertising work.

OLIVIERO TOSCANI: I don’t do advertising, I just do advertising media. If I worked for a newspaper or magazine it would be published just in that magazine. I don’t really know advertising.

ANDREA: Your father was a photojournalist, and that must have had a tremendous influence on you and your work – for me your work is photojournalistic. I’m wondering why you decided to address the problems of humanity.

OLIVIERO: I’ve always been engaged somehow. I belong to a generation that revolted in the early 60s. I’m the same age as Bob Dylan and Mohammed Ali and the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. I’ve been out there.

ANDREA: Well, you’ve said recently that you feel sensitivities have changed since you stopped working with Benetton in 2000.

OLIVIERO: I wanted to try something new and now I’m back again.

ANDREA: And you had said the reason you’re back [with Benetton] was because you have similar interests. Would you care to expand on that? What interests do you have in common?

OLIVIERO: What interests me right now is the problem of integration. This is a major problem of the world today. We can’t integrate humanity.

ANDREA: Considering the generation in which you grew up, how do you think that the work you’ve done with Benetton is going to affect what you can do now?

OLIVIERO: Well, we are living in a moment that is not really correct for humanity; look at your president.

ANDREA: Oh, please, I don’t want to.

OLIVIERO: We have to do something. It’s fantastic to have this chance, and, of course, in Italy, we’ve got the same kind of model and the same kind of idiots. So I’m resisting.

ANDREA: And how are you going to show that?

OLIVIERO: I do everything I can through the press, through interviews, through what is published, and through what is going public on TV.

ANDREA: The world has become so politically correct that I think it’s very difficult to put up images such as yours. Anything that’s very controversial or that creates that kind of controversy – to get that across to people, to be able to have permission to do that is very difficult.

OLIVIERO: I’m not looking for a consensus. Also, I don’t want you to think “controversy.” I’ve just seen what they think I should be publishing. I work in a totally free situation. A good photographer should be able to show his point of view through images.

ANDREA: I’m just wondering, given this political climate, if you’re going to have a lot more pushback.

OLIVIERO: I don’t think so. There is a great opportunity in this political climate, with Trump and the Italian government and the rise of nationalism. We have some incredible enemies, so it’s a fantastic opportunity.

ANDREA: Well, you’re lucky at Benetton, in that you and your partners support each other that way. It’s unusual.

OLIVIERO: I’m not really working at Benetton, the company. I’m working at a kind of studio where we do research on modern communication and our first client was Benetton.

ANDREA: What happened when you did those ads that caused a separation between you and Benetton?

OLIVIERO: Nothing caused separation between me and Benetton in 2000. I had to do something else. I couldn’t go on doing the same thing. And I had an incredible proposal from Tina Brown to go work for Miramax. That’s why I left. I didn’t leave because Benetton didn’t want me anymore.

ANDREA: So why did you think you had to do something else?

OLIVIERO: Because I’m curious. I don’t care about the money. You can be free and still make money.

ANDREA: Why did you decide to use a white background for a lot of your images?

OLIVIERO: I don’t care about backgrounds. I would have painted the Mona Lisa on a white background. I don’t like black because black hasn’t got any perspective.

ANDREA: And then [mutual friend] Frances told me that you only like to use one light then you don’t need more than one light because the sun is only one light.

OLIVIERO: The sun is one side of just one surface.

ANDREA: Correct me if this is wrong, but I’ve heard you think photographers, or that you, don’t belong in a gallery.

OLIVIERO: I don’t care about galleries. They’re not my place. Pictures in galleries have no meaning. To me, a photograph needs to be published and printed. Photography is a public service, not something that you hang on the wall. Modern art is photography, not paintings. Paintings are last century. I don’t put paintings on my wall.

ANDREA: You talk a lot about how insecurity has to do with creativity.

OLIVIERO: Well you can’t be creative and secure. You have to be insecure to be creative.

ANDREA: You come across as a very confident person. I don’t know you well, but I don’t see the insecurities in you – and yet you do this incredible work. Can you recall a moment that you were extremely insecure about something that turned out to be a great achievement?

OLIVIERO: It doesn’t scare me to be insecure. You know when I drive my motorbike, I’m not secure. When I go skiing, I’m not secure. When I take an airplane, I’m not secure. The only thing I’m secure of is that someday I’ll die. The rest is optional, but —

ANDREA: Ok, but I’m trying to talk about your creativity.

OLIVIERO: When you take a chance you need the courage to not care about failing and starting again. Every time you fail you learn that you could have done it better.

ANDREA: Give me an example of when that happened to you.

OLIVIERO: It happens every day. I wake up. Today is a new day. You take a picture and when you’re finished you know you could take it much better.

ANDREA: What’s a typical day like for you?

OLIVIERO: I wake up pretty early in the morning. I like silence for a while.

ANDREA: Do you meditate or are you just silent?

OLIVIERO: Just silent. Then I read the newspaper.

ANDREA: Let’s talk about creativity. There are a lot of people who go around calling themselves creative.

OLIVIERO: I think they’re a bunch of idiots. You’ll never hear a real creative person say, “I’m a creative.”

ANDREA: You’ve said that if advertising made everyone happy it would be an act of hypocrisy. What do you believe the role of advertising is?

OLIVIERO: First of all, I don’t believe in advertising. I’ve never really worked for an advertising agency.

ANDREA: You’ve been very lucky.

OLIVIERO: Everything is advertising. The Sistine Chapel is the advertising of the church.

ANDREA: But I’d like to know how you started in fashion photography.

OLIVIERO: I didn’t start with fashion at all. I started with reportage: I was working for a magazine and then the magazine editor asked me, “Why don’t you take some fashion pictures?” So I took some fashion pictures. But then Benetton came along and said, “Why don’t you work for me?” So I started to work with him. Normally I do work with people I like; the first thing you have to do is choose your clients – who I call friends, rather than clients. Frank Lloyd Wright used to say the quality of the archi- tecture depends on the intelligence of your client. So if you have a stupid client you can’t do a good job.

ANDREA: You’ve also said that it is an honor to be criticized.

OLIVIERO: Everybody was saying that “Toscani was destroying Benetton.” But “everybody” was wrong: I revolutionized the whole advertising world. If you haven’t got any critics then you haven’t done anything interesting

ANDREA: Tell me about working with Warhol.

OLIVIERO: I thought, “Let’s do a fashion study.” [Warhol] would be dressing like a middle-class American. So we went shopping for a Brooks Brother, Madison Avenue-type get-up. And then we went to the studio and we did a picture that I got published in Vogue.

ANDREA: I love the pictures of him with the robe and the socks.

OLIVIERO: He really enjoyed it.

ANDREA: Where do you see yourself five years from now?

OLIVIERO: I’m finally building my own studio, in the middle of my vineyard. The most beautiful place. I invite my friends and we drink wine.

ANDREA: So you’re building a studio to drink wine in?

OLIVIERO: Drink wine, cook, worship. Discuss the future.

ANDREA: How many children do you have?


ANDREA: You’re kidding.

OLIVIERO: With three women. And 15 grandchildren.

ANDREA: Oh my God. How wonderful!

OLIVIERO: I don’t even remember their names.

ANDREA: Is there anything that you would like to do that you haven’t done?

OLIVIERO: I would like to do a lot of things, but luckily I have imagination. Imagining doesn’t cost anything.

ANDREA: You know, [our mutual friend] Francis said to me, “Well you know Toscani, he’s a communist who wears a gold watch.”

OLIVIERO: Who told you I’m a communist?

ANDREA: Francis!

OLIVIERO: I like what Mayakovsky said: “We are not civilized enough to live in a communist society.”

ANDREA: 20 years from now, what would you like your legacy to be?

OLIVIERO: I don’t care.

ANDREA: What was the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

OLIVIERO: Falling in love.

ANDREA: Oh, really?

OLIVIERO: Of course, it’s the biggest risk you can take.