“Fashion photography is just beauty and dreams”

At the Palais Galliera in Paris, Italian photographer Paolo Roversi, 76, a major figure in fashion photography, exhibits his timeless images, the fruit of his collaborations with stylists Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo, in a scenography full of shadows. This unique artist, who made the studio his field of experimentation and the Polaroid his signature, receives Luce in the Parisian studio, where he settled more than forty years ago.

What has characterized you since your beginnings is the studio. How did it start?

I took my first photos at home, in the kitchen, in Italy. The studio has always been my home. When I arrived here, in this place, in Paris, I lived on the second floor and I worked on the first and ground floors. Now I live elsewhere, but there is still a domestic aspect to my photos. The intimate and friendly side of the studio is what I like.

Have you ever taken outdoor photos?

It never worked very well. When I’m in raw reality, it’s not my home. I need to be in the imagination. The studio is the ideal space for this. It’s a very open place, where there is no time, no seasons, no limits, even if, in reality, it’s… 16 square meters, 18? It is infinite space. The place where everything is possible.

Like a blank page?

Yes, except that the photographer’s white page is black, and he writes with light. But, it’s true, the studio is an empty page where we can create. On a winter day it may be sunny, on a summer day it may snow. It’s like a little theater where I can invent everything, experiment.

And at the same time you like not having control over everything…

I like to leave a lot of room for casuality, chance, and accidents. In fashion now, there is this race against time, against too low a budget. It’s more difficult to take liberties.

You are less in the tradition of fashion photographers than in that of great portraitists, like Nadar…

The studio calls the portrait. I admire the work of great portraitists like Nadar, like August Sander, like Diane Arbus – who did not work in a studio. But also Irving Penn, Richard Avedon… These great masters are always in my head. We always make photos from other photos, we don’t invent anything.

Read the portrait (2020) | Article reserved for our subscribers Paolo Roversi, on the other side of the portrait

In fashion photography, people often say that you are quirky. Why did you choose this field?

Fashion photography happened a bit by chance, through encounters. But I liked it, because it’s a type of photography that suits me, where there is a certain freedom. This is not documentary photography: there is no event, no story. Just beauty and dreams.

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