The man behind the photographer: Gian Paolo Barbieri is revealing some of the most private aspects of his personal life. Barbieri is a pioneer in fashion photography, having shot the first cover of Vogue Italia, and has since logged several major advertising campaigns and portraits of everyone from movie stars and to supermodels.
Next month, his book “Flowers of My Life” will hit stores. It is edited by Silvana Editoriale with the support of the Italian fashion company Miroglio Group and is conceived with Barbieri’s longtime protégé, New York-based eclectic artist Branislav Jankic. The book, which mixes pictures taken by Barbieri with poems written by Jankic, chronicles the three-year love affair between the photographer and the late model Evar Locatelli, who died in a motorcycle accident at age 21.
“Branislav got the idea for this project. It happened that he saw a book I was hiding in a drawer. That was a book where I collected all the pictures of Evar. That’s a very secret, private book, which I had never shown to anyone before. Branislav thought that was a beautiful book and he convinced me to share that with others,” said Barbieri in explaining his decision to talk about a happy moment in his life that suddenly turned tragic 25 years ago.
“When I started working on the book I was very emotional, I was not really sure this was the right thing to do. But then Branislav showed me the right approach to adopt in developing this project and I convinced myself to proceed. I also still have to talk with Evar’s mum — I didn’t know her when I was with Evar, he never talked to her about me. I’m not sure she will be happy.”
Barbieri met the young man when Locatelli was looking for a photographer to shoot his portfolio, and took several pictures of him, including portraits and naked shots, which are now juxtaposed in the book with images of flowers.
“The fact that I have also photographed flowers over the years is first of all because I love nature. Also, during my trips to tropical destinations, I got bored after a week of doing nothing on an island so I used to take pictures of all those beautiful flowers,” Barbieri said. “In addition, flowers are so fragile, fragile like our lives — as I realized losing Evar when he was so young. There are always fresh flowers next to his portrait in my apartment.”
Barbieri’s book will be published at a crucial moment in Italy, where the government is divided over whether the stepchild adoption law should be extended to gay couples.
“Laws cannot define love, love is free,” Barbieri said. “I think it’s totally unfair that there are all those restrictions. I think it’s time to generate some awareness in people.”
To celebrate the launch of the book, the photographer will host an event at his Milanese studio on Sunday, where Barbieri himself will read some of the poems included in the book, which also features images of the handwritten notes Evar used to leave for him.
“The performance conceived by Branislav is inspired by one of my dreams, where Evar appears in a room filled with people and flowers and he says, ‘Do not believe those who will tell you that I’m dead! I am here only for you. Nobody else can see me,’” explained Barbieri, who asked actor Filippo Timi to appear in a short movie to be unveiled at the event. An exhibition with the images featured in the book “Flowers of my life,” will be open to the public March 1 to 31 in Milan.
The photographer also revealed that a foundation bearing his name is going to be established within a month at his studio.
“The archive collecting my pictures is really huge and it has also been valued a lot,” he explained. “I thought it was a good idea to create a foundation which could preserve the memory of myself and my work and which also could serve to all those young people who want to approach photography and who are keen to learn more about this subject.”