Light is Life: The Photography of Paolo Roversi

Light is Life: The Photography of Paolo Roversi

What is the task of a fashion image? Is it meant to reflect reality or to project fantasy? Can it straddle those dual obligations and succeed? Does it serve to make us feel connected and empowered to use fashion and beauty in our own lives? Or does it peddle an exclusive beauty standard—one that can leave us feeling left out? 

To get to the essence of our personal style, I think we must consider the role that external forces play in shaping our conception of fashion, because we don't get dressed in a vacuum. We have to acknowledge that our individual relationship with fashion is strongly influenced by advertising and marketing and photography; basically an entire industry pushing us in a certain direction. Which direction specifically is an interesting question—one that is likely subjective, so I'll speak for myself. 

I recognize the general thrust towards consumption in the fashion industry. It's not exactly consumption, it's towards the feeling that we could be happier, more stylish, more beautiful, more...(fill in the blank) if only we we looked this way, had this dress, had that hair, had...(fill in the blank, here too). Depending on our personal experience, we might find some of those criteria problematic, especially the ones concerning our physicality. Yet, the words that stand out as troubling to me are not "look," or "have," but "if only we." Somewhere along the path to inspiring us, the fashion industry created a set of hurdles we have to jump, if only in our own mind, to feel the way we want to feel by turning to fashion in the first place: confident, at ease, and happy in our skin.

Still, I cannot deny the beauty that I see and feel in so many of the images fashion has produced over decades, particularly those created before the era of heavy photo editing. And celebrating beauty is a critical need we have as human beings. It's not superficial, it's elemental. So, the question becomes: can we find a way to simultaneously celebrate beauty in fashion without feeling subservient to it? As I thought about it, the images that kept coming to my mind were those of Paolo Roversi, whose work, to me, bears poignant witness to the power of beauty. Not just the beauty of his subjects, but a more universal one—the beauty that lies within each of us and far beyond us. His work and words below.

 

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I am always in search of beauty. This I know for sure. 

 

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I have a very mystic and spiritual approach to photography, which I can't explain, and I don't need to. I like to keep things unrevealed, I like sometimes to lose myself into the indefinite. That often happens to me along the path of beauty, without ever truly understanding where to proceed, and the further I manage to see, the deeper the mystery becomes. 

 

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My studio is a rectangular room with a high ceiling, old wooden parquet flooring, and a large window facing north. It is like a tiny theatre with an empty stage, a space to be filled, a time yet to be invented, a proscenium where everything is possible, no trick disallowed, where neither seasons, nor days, not hours exist.

Here all temporal boundaries dividing live and imitation, reality and fiction, dissolve.

 

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Every photograph is an encounter, an intimate, reciprocal confession.

 

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 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.

 

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Photography goes beyond the limits of reality and illusion. It brushes up against another life, another dimension, revealing not only what is there but [what is not] there.

 

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A good subject is one that stimulates and inspires the desire to dream, the desire to unveil a mystery, the thrill of suggesting another reality. Every day, when I step into my studio, I have a hope. For me, photography is not about copying reality, but revealing something else.

 

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There’s no logic in the realm of the imagination. 

 

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All images © Paolo Roversi. The sources of Mr. Roversi's quotes: herehere, here, and here

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