Some of the most iconic supermodel photos were shot by one man. Marco Glaviano is the ‘father of supermodel photography.’
By Michelle F. Solomon
His photographs were the height of the supermodel heyday. Megastars and big contracts. Photographer Marco Glaviano, known as “the father of supermodel photography,” is a legend in the fashion industry.
“Marco Glaviano created some of the most iconic images of the 1980s and ‘90s,” says Ghislain Pascal, one of the founders of London’s Little Black Gallery, where Glaviano exhibited in 2012 in a show that was met with a “phenomenal response” by the Brits.
Glaviano is known as a game changer in the world of fashion photography, sophisticating the notion of the pin-up and elevating photographs from being merely pictures in magazines to collectible art works.
“There was freedom then as a photographer. There was cool,” says Glaviano. He was in the midst of that cool. In the 1980s, his collaboration with Elite Models founder John Casablancas and president Monique Pillard was influential in developing the supermodel phenomenon. He helped to elevate the trend when he was chosen by Elite agency and supermodels Paulina Porizkova, Cindy Crawford, and Eva Herzigova to photograph their swimsuit calendars.
A prolific output that numbers more than 500 covers and editorials for some of the most recognizable fashion magazines — from Harpers Bazaar and Vanity Fair to Elle and Vogue — he is also known as the pioneer of digital fashion photography. It was, in fact, one of his photos that was the first-ever digital picture to be published in American Vogue in 1982.
His photographs of nudes, too, strike a balance between photography and art — something that Nicole Benson, gallery director of New York’s Keszler Gallery, who has shown Glaviano’s work, says “all comes together that is never overwhelming, just breathtaking.”
Glaviano, himself, says his photographic nudes are a way to show the body as beauty in its purest form, not to sell clothes. Curators also cite the photographer’s choice of exotic settings, which add another element of excitement to the works — the gleaming sands of Saint Barth and Cabo San Lucas, and the dramatic rock formations of the Sardinia coastline, 360 miles across the Tyrrhenian Sea — from his birthplace of Palermo, Italy.
Crawford is the model in many of the famous works, posing for him on horseback, in water, and in grass. At Art Miami in 2013, the iconic supermodel appeared alongside Glaviano amid recreations of his best-known black and white images of her — large-scale versions printed on canvas and sprinkled with diamond dust.
Perhaps the way he frames his photographs can be credited to the architectural degree he received from the University of Palermo or from his work as a theatrical set designer. But, he says, his inspiration is simple — “It is beauty,” the photographer told his daughter, Alessia Glaviano, who is the senior photo editor for Vogue Italia and L’Uomo Vogue, during an interview in Vogue Italia in 2013. The interview took place just before a retrospective of his work was to open in his hometown of Palermo.
He began taking pictures when he was five years old when, he says, an uncle who was working in cinema gave him his first camera. But it was at the age of 26 when he decided that “the only way to get a girl was through photography.”
This summer, the photographer’s works will be introduced to Canadian art lovers at Toronto’s Izzy Gallery.
This will be the first exhibit of Glaviano’s work in Canada. “It is very exciting for me and for the public here. People know his work but not necessarily the name, so we will connect the two,” says Izzy Sulejmani, who owns the gallery.
It was an accidental meeting involving another high-profile photographer that led to the upcoming exhibit that opens June 1. Sulejmani was having dinner with celebrity photographer and icon Roxanne Lowit in New York when Lowit “said hello to Marco and I said, ‘Oh, my — Marco Glaviano.’ I had known of his work for a long time.” Izzy Gallery will show some of Glaviano’s largest photographs. “(They are) strikingly spectacular. The way he sees the world is amazing,” says Sulejmani.
Sara Colombo, a former model and owner of Bal Harbour’s NEST CASA, who has curated Glaviano’s pieces for many years and whose former showroom on Lincoln Road hosted the photographer’s Jazz and Models exhibit says: “There are elements in Marco Glaviano’s style and in his vision that create timeless works of art.”