When it comes to prominent Italian fashion photographers in the 1960s, it's hard to beat Gian Paolo Barbieri’s expansive CV. The self-taught image-maker got his start as an apprentice to Harper’s Bazaar photographer Tom Kublin and quickly rose the ranks, publishing for a who’s who of magazines including countless covers of Vogue Italia. Shooting everyone from Jerry Hall to Monica Bellucci, it was the artist's affinity for sophisticated black-and-white imagery that scored him several ad campaigns for Italy’s biggest brands like Valentino and Armani. Recognising Barbieri’s contribution to the industry, the photographer was awarded the 2018 Lucie Award for Best International Photographer. Now, a selection of his unseen work is the basis for a new exhibit at Milan’s 29 Arts in Progress gallery.
While the sophisticated monochromatic portraits, like that of Audrey Hepburn, are the artist's trademark, it’s his irreverent (and often ironic) spontaneous shoots that take the spotlight in Gian Paolo Barbieri: Unconventional. Whether it's Eva Herzigova playfully slurping her spaghetti at an Italian restaurant, or Donatella Versace being chauffeured around town, this new exhibit presents an innovative selection of images rich with references to art history and allusions to classic cinema. The unplanned photography style adds an intimate level of realism to Barbieri’s subjects. Think of it like an elevated precursor to BeReal with better fashion and more exotic locations.
The exhibition opens days after the release of Gian Paolo Barbieri: The Man and The Beauty in cinemas. The first documentary about the artist’s life and career, the film recently won the Audience Award at the 2022 Biografilm Festival in Bologna. With no shortage of events highlighting the artist’s six decades shaping the fashion industry, fans old and new will get a chance to discover the beloved Italian photographer's legendary career.
Gian Paolo Barbieri: Unconventional runs from 29 November to 25 March at 29 Arts in Progress on Via San Vittore 13 in Milan.