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15/03/2021 | PEOPLE, PHOTOGRAPHY

GIOVANNI GASTEL. UNFORGETTABLE GENTLE GENIUS

Posted by: Gisella Borioli

Giovanni Gastel, an extraordinary man, photographer, artist, poet, writer of undisputed greatness, passed away in a moment of Covid. Grandson of the filmmaker Luchino Visconti, from a noble and wealthy family, in order to be a photographer he paid his dues like many others, starting from scratch. It just so happened that the beginning of his career was precisely in Edimoda, publishing house of Donna and Mondo Uomo, revolutionary fashion magazines created by Flavio Lucchini and which in the 80s even outclassed Vogue Italia and L'Uomo Vogue, created right by Lucchini. I ran Donna, and I introduced him to the magical fashion world.

If I think back to my life intertwined with that of Giovanni Gastel, the first memory that comes to my mind is this thin and introverted boy who, selected by Flavio who was the art director, I was given to make Donna's cover by Ferré which Toscani had to do when he left in a sudden fit of temper.
Giovanni, in the waiting room to confer with the Grand Chief of what represents in those years the most coveted and most advanced magazine of women's publishing, was there with his still-life photos book and art works reproductions under his arm. No fashion photos, not even attempts.
He had nothing to do with us, but after a few words he was immediately coaptured by Flavio to work for us and for that first cover.
We faced it together at night. He couldn't do that, I wasn't satisfied. The model frightened him, it was the first time with a model beyond the lens. I "stiffened" the girl by making her wear on top of each other three identical leather vests in different colors, transforming her into a kind of still-life. The first of his masterpieces was born. The symbol of fashion that was becoming design.
Donna became “his” magazine, sharing the most important shootings with Fabrizio Ferri for years. For Mondo Uomo, another successful newspaper, he invented smart and ironic still-lives, making each object the subject of an image that made both reflect and smile at the same time. He met Krizia and Trussardi with us, remaking the two brand's image. And then, for ten years, the Fratelli Rossetti. From there many others called him.
Very good with his giant Polaroid or old-fashioned plate photos that he dominated perfectly in the studio, I encouraged him to try outside, experiment with new points of view, get out of his confort zone of woman painted by light. He hesitated. But after a forcing trip to Africa, so many horizons opened up in front of him. His poetry was within him, not dependent on study, enlighttenment, place.
For Donna's tenth anniversary, 1990, after years of exclusive and intense collaboration, thanks to Luciano Bernardini's idea, I had the opportunity to dedicate to him the first important outdoor photographic exhibition that Milan had ever done. 1 km of great photos published over the years by Donna in via della Spiga.
A round-trip scenographic set-up created by the architect Dante Benini, and his mythical images. The way came out transformed, for a long time a beauty and elegance stage, and his images among windows of famous brands of the time. Except next to Prada, which preferred no interference. Even Carlo Verdone inserted in one of his films, in a cameo, photos by Gastel in the street, while he was writing on one of them.
In 1997 I collaborated with the choreographer Susanna Beltrami who made Verga's novel “La Lupa” an intense theatrical show where dramaturgy is expressed with the dance language. Once again generous, Giovanni made free of charge intense images of the protagonists for the accompanying book-catalogue.
When, in 2004, I was asked to bring to London the "Desir d'Italie" great exhibition, spread over several floors at Harrods, for Gastel's exhibition I took the cue from the hundreds of Polaroids shot and discarded and then transformed into "tiles" for his beautiful studio's floor opened in via Tortona, a few steps from our Superstudio.
Defying conventions, we rebuilt the same effect on London store's floor, surprising people with the fact that such magical photos could also be under their feet.  (continue)

THE GREATEST THANKS
«I certainly owe the greatest one to those who decided that my photos were beautiful and therefore two people: Flavio Lucchini, extraordinary art director who created all the Condé Nast, then Donna, Moda... and his wife Gisella Borioli, Donna's editor in chief... They decided that what I was doing was good and from that moment on it became beautiful. How did they do it? By publishing 30-40 pages of my photos per issue ». Giovanni Gastel

Historical Donna's Cover with leather vests Gianfranco Ferrè, photo Giovanni Gastel.
The great exhibition “Desir d'Italie” by Giovanni Gastel for Harrods London.
Giovanni Gastel with the stylist Krizia for one of her first Campaign.
Flavio Lucchini and Giovanni Gastel together at Lucchini's Atelier.

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