Giovanni Gastel and his unforgettable poetry shots

“Vittoria” by Beatrice Brandini

Shalom Harlow photographed by Giovanni Gastel in 1990

I had wanted to dedicate a post to this great photographer for months, especially after his recent and important monograph exhibition at the MAXXI in Rome. This little story, about this great master, is unfortunately posthumous, since Giovanni Gastel has just left us, this cursed pandemic has taken him too … leaving all those who loved his photos and his poems, astonished and immensely sad.

Portrait of Winnie Harlow, by Giovanni Gastel

Giovanni Gastel was a great photographer, able with his shots and portraits to embellish and make elegant even a box of spaghetti (it happened). With great simplicity, craft and innate talent, he was able to photograph Barack Obama and a mug of beer for Esselunga, with the same passion, capturing, in both cases, the essence of the character or product photographed, with a result that left few doubts about its professionalism and effectiveness.

Marpessa photographed by Giovanni Gastel for Vogue Spain, 1990

Tall, slouching, naturally elegant, with that elegance of someone of noble origins (his mother was Ida Visconti di Modrone, his uncle Luchino Visconti). Anyone who has been in fashion for some time knew him very well, especially for the beautiful images published in fashion magazines all over the world. His advertising campaigns or his editorials (I especially remember those made on Donna under the direction of Gisella Borioli, and those for Glamour, with Simone Guidarelli) were special, I don’t say influenced by emotion, they were really special, special and different from everyone. Gastel did not follow trends, he did not like anyone, he had an unmistakable style like all the greatest. Has change the perception of the image of fashion, from glossy and distant from the general public, to poetry, understandable to everyone just like when you are in front of a work of art or of beauty in general.

Photo by Giovanni Gastel for Dior, 1991

Of himself he said. “I also took bad photos, in fact I took them for years, I kept them for young people to see. It is important to state this because maybe one sees what I do today and may think that I was “born learned”, as they say in Naples. Not true, then you learn and improve.

He also told how, in the mid-90s, at the height of his career in which he photographed Dior and Nina Ricci in Paris, Trussardi and Missoni in Milan, all of a sudden he lost all his clients within a few months. Without understanding why, wounded but not won, he realized that perhaps his work needed to be updated, and in fact after a while he began to work again without stopping. Another example of humility and flexibility that only the greatest have.

Tatjana Patitz photographed by Giovanni Gastel for Vogue Spain, 1990

Even when asked what fashion was and how he understood it, his answer was hilarious. “I was born in fashion at 17, so I speak their language. But if one comes from outside he does not understand them. At the end of the 1980s, a meeting with Krizia with whom I was already working. With us also the greatest Italian advertiser, Emanuele Pirella, a very intelligent man, a giant. Let’s talk for an hour, Krizia explains everything to us and we go away. We walk and Emanuele whispers to me: Giovanni, did you understand what she said? ”. Yes sure. Him: “I nothing, not even a word. You do it, then send me the photos ”. Nothing has changed, fashion is still like this.

Gastel was also a sensitive poet, as evidenced by these splendid verses which are just like him, shrewd, elegant, ironic, and profound.

“Angel” by Beatrice Brandini

«I will confess my sins so up there they will be happy. Then we will walk peacefully you and I my angel  / on the edge of the wine-colored sea. You will tell me: This is all the peace you can have … I will say / It seems to me angel enough. Thanks for being close to me. Was I a difficult and complex man to be with? And you will say / You have been a man. I’ve seen worse (Filicudi 2020) “.

Giovanni Gastel

Goodbye Giovanni,  you have been an exceptional interpreter of our last forty years, your photos will remain an invaluable testimony of our times, even when we are no longer there.

Good life to everyone!



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