Diversity has never been hotter in the fashion industry. This year, more non-white, plus-sized, and transgender models have walked the runway than ever before, and a record number of black women have appeared on the covers of glossies worldwide. Alessia Glaviano, senior picture editor at Vogue Italia and director of the Photo Vogue Festival thinks we owe it to the internet. “I believe that nothing would have happened, or not this fast, in terms of inclusivity, if it wasn’t for social media,” she says. “It’s a progressive platform for talking about race, identity, sexuality, and disability.”
But diversity isn’t just a trend, it’s a reality. Years before #diversity began to take off, forward-thinking publications such as Vogue Italia were already poking holes in the industry’s representation problem, with initiatives such as the July 2008 “all black” issue. Vogue Italia is known for being adventurous, for setting a standard for cutting-edge fashion photography. Over the years has given artistic freedom to commissioned photographers such as Steve Meisel, Ellen von Unwerth and Miles Aldridge, who have shot stories unlikely to be seen elsewhere, engaging with themes such as plastic surgery and domestic violence.
“It’s been in our DNA since the beginning,” says Glaviano. “We’ve always been really engaged and committed to this part of fashion that can be very strong and influential.
“I’ve never believed in boundaries and labelling things,” she adds. “No one cares that Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Sistine Chapel. What they care about is the final result.”
Famously described by Susan Sontag in her 1964 essay Notes on ‘Camp’ as “a sensibility (as distinct from an idea)”, the appreciation of camp was born out of artifice and opulence, a vulgar fascination with theatrical exaggeration. And while it has long been tied up with LGBTQI culture, it has become a compelling way to convey messages without limits. “To me, camp is a very powerful thing,” says Phillip Prokopiou. “It’s a form of satire – a way to exaggerate and ridicule things that are very serious.” Prokopiou, a South Africa-born, London-based photographer behind an eponymous studio, which he co-founded with his partner-in-life-and-art Panagiotis Poimenidis, has long been fascinated with the power of kitsch to communicate our deepest hopes, fears and fantasies – whether they manifest in the form of a moustachioed Virgin Mary (stage name: Virgin Xtravaganzah) sitting chastely in the glow of ‘Gawd’’s glory, or an otherworldly extraterrestrial gazing into the distance.
“The main issues in fashion currently are gender and identity, and a more inclusive image of beauty,” says Alessia Glaviano. “It partially comes from Instagram – Instagram has made a big change.” It’s forward-thinking comment for someone known for her work on world-famous print magazine Vogue Italia, but then Glaviano’s also known for pushing the boundaries. In addition to being senior photo editor on Vogue Italia, she’s web editor of vogue.it, and she’s also responsible for PhotoVogue – a curated online platform on which emerging photographers can submit their work. And in addition she’s director of the Photo Vogue Festival, the first-ever international festival of fashion photography, which is now back for the second time in Milan. “Well it went very well last year,” she says. “So here we are again.” Then there’s Vogue Italia itself. A very different beast to its more mainstream counterparts in the US and elsewhere, it sets the standard for cutting-edge fashion photography. It’s known for its adventurous and sometimes dark imagery, giving photographers such as Steve Meisel, Miles Aldridge, Ellen von Unwerth, …
Growing up surrounded by oppression in a country where violent religious and ethnic clashes were commonplace and close at hand, Suryajaya was constrained by strict traditional and conservative values that condemned homosexuality. He needed to get out. He turned 18, alone, on a flight bound for the United States, leaving behind his family and his old life in Indonesia.
With a Lebanese-American mother and an Emirati father, Farah Al Qasimi has lived much of her life between the United States and Abu Dhabi, where she grew up. Now completing a Master of Fine Arts at Yale, she is still oscillating between her two home nations, and producing work that explores home, belonging, representation and clarity.
Spearheaded by Vogue Italia’s senior photo editor, Alessia Glaviano, the inaugural Photo Vogue Festival got off to an impressive start, says curator Federica Chiocchetti