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GIOVANNI GASTEL

Giovanni Gastel, 'a gentleman-craftsman with a sense of humour', has been a leading international photographer and artist for more than thirty years. The author of great advertising campaigns and masterful exhibitions of fine art, he has contributed his 'chic touch' to fashion magazines and other periodicals the world over. Born in Milan in 1955, he began his career at a very young age, immediately demonstrating an ability to renew his language constantly and succeeding in the difficult task of always being recognisable in all circumstances. And elegance is the keyword for his style: elegance, that is, 'in an ethical rather than an aesthetic sense'.

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Giovanni Gastel, ''a gentleman-craftsman with a sense of humour'', has been a leading international photographer and artist for more than thirty years. The author of great advertising campaigns and masterful exhibitions of fine art, he has contributed his ''chic touch'' to fashion magazines and other periodicals the world over. Born in Milan in 1955, he began his career at a very young age, immediately demonstrating an ability to renew his language constantly and succeeding in the difficult task of always being recognisable in all circumstances. And elegance is the keyword for his style: elegance, that is, ''in an ethical rather than an aesthetic sense''.

 

Canali

A CONVERSATION WITH GIOVANNI GASTEL

How important is the narrative dimension in your work?

It is everything. But it is always a narrative about me. My photographs are messages in bottles: the people who want to “read them” have to take what they get.

Do you tell yourself and your team a story before a shoot?

I don’t talk much. I’m very old school: it’s the people on my team who have to “catch on” to what’s happening. I don’t give people lessons. Or perhaps I do, but I don’t feel like a teacher. In part because I don’t know what the end result of my work will be. There’s an element of surprise for me too.

So no ''premeditated'' formats?

No. I’ve always needed equipment that produces an image straight away. After I’ve seen it, I give the ''story'' an unexpected emotional twist. Which means there can’t be a clearly defined ''plot''. My stylistic unity is me. Every day I try to visualise a process that culminates in the ''absolute photograph'', the one that will finally give me peace of mind. Obviously, and luckily, this never happens. The process isn’t the result of design, but builds itself as it goes.

Can you describe your evolution, now and in the past?

I can say that there is a very strong identity in what I do: it’s my own identity, but often other people provide a critical key to interpret my work.

From optical to digital: what has changed for you?

I’ve had the great fortune to tackle and learn two photographic methods: analogue and technological, the latter of which has been a watershed in terms of creative methods and possibilities. It has been an opportunity, not a constraint. Stretching the limits of a medium also implies stretching your own mental and cultural limits. This is good for you.

Is photography seduction? If so who is the seducer and the seduced, the photographer or the subject?

It is always an act of seduction. It lasts a moment, but if that moment isn’t there, it’s terrible. A beautiful photograph must contain passion unleashed by both the person who takes and the person who appears in the photograph.

And what is beauty?

An assemblage of defects. And that’s the individuality I look for. In models too.

Creativity: is it learned or is it part of our DNA?

I use photography to talk about the things I can’t show, it is my investigation into the wonderful. I use words to say things I normally can’t declare, it is my investigation into fear.

How important is being unique for you?

It is fundamental. Only authors will survive the avalanche of images and banal catalogues of reality. But just like fingerprints, we are all unique. And the uniqueness of each and every one of us must become our point of strength. It’s an effort, and that’s a fact. But the important thing is to ''find an adjective'' and to build an individuality on it that is our way of being in the world. At the outset I was very shy. I created an aesthetic from my shyness.

Your favourite photograph of all time?

The one I’ll take tomorrow.

 

THE LOOK

'We all have style', we just need to find it and make it part of our aesthetic. Which is why in his interview for the '200 Steps' series, Giovanni Gastel prefers a classic but distinctive look that is the perfect embodiment of his personality and aesthetic.

Two-button brown jacket with flap pockets. Pink linen dress shirt. Gray pants with cuff. Belt in woven calfskin with embossed Canali logo. Brown calfskin boat shoes.


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