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  • Writer's pictureimirage


Italian fashion photographer Paolo Roversi has been taking portraits in the same Paris studio for more 30 years. And, speaking with him about his craft, it seems no coincidence that the space was once a painter’s atelier.

“For me, photography is all five senses,” Roversi said in a phone interview. “It’s not just the visual. It’s also the smell, touch, taste and sound. You might hear music when you look at a photo, or feel the wind. It’s a window to the imagination.”

Roversi has brought together more than 100 of his portraits in “Dior Images: Paolo Roversi.” Created in collaboration with Christian Dior, the coffee table book features the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell wearing dresses from the fashion house’s archive – all captured with the signature photographic blur Roversi pioneered in the 1990s.

“I feel more when the photos are not sharp, that’s why,” he said. “In my work, there is nothing rational or logical … It’s about instinct and feelings.”

This philosophy seems a far cry from Roversi’s photojournalist beginnings. In 1970, he got his start shooting for the Associated Press, for whom he photographed Ezra Pound’s burial in Venice. Two years later, he moved to Paris and started working for Elle magazine. It was there that he was introduced to the work of Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.

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“I loved the fantastic quality of fashion photos and the beautiful design of the clothes,” he said. “It brought a sense of elegance to aesthetic beauty.”

Shooting models in his Parisian studio is more than just showing off beauty, youth and couture, however: “It’s a reciprocal exchange between the model and I of spirit, personality and style,” he said. “It’s always very special for me to take a portrait of someone. It’s not just a little picture.”

Paolo Roversi is an amazing talent, but he continues to be a low-key enigma to many. His style and technique is unique and have no equal. His large format, (8×10), affinity puts him in a league all his own, especially in a digital age. Even when he started, (before digital), it was rare to do portraiture or fashion in anything other than 35mm or medium format, which always made him the odd man out.

“My photography is more subtraction than addition. I always try to take off things. We all have a sort of mask of expression. You say goodbye, you smile, you are scared. I try to take all these masks away and little by little subtract until you have something pure left. A kind of abandon, a kind of absence. It looks like an absence, but in fact when there is this emptiness I think the interior beauty comes out. This is my technique.”



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