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Eye on Photography: Interview with Alessia Glaviano, Vogue Italia

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Ask any young, up-and-coming photographer about Alessia Glaviano and no doubt she is in their insta feed. As Brand Visual Director of Vogue Italia, Glaviano has handled all things visual for this holy grail of a publication for close to 20 years, overseeing everything from photography to event aesthetics to brand image. A creator at heart, she transitioned the print publication from its old-school status of a stunning, high-fashion glossy to a cutting-edge powerhouse digital site.

Alessa Glaviano by Teju Cole

Ever-evolving, Alessia launched the highly successful online platform, PhotoVogue, nearly 10 years ago as well as created the annual PhotoVogue Festival in 2016, an event she runs and curates herself in Milan. She considers the event the “first conscious fashion photography festival”, a dialogue between different genres of photography and social issues, exploring the diversity of subjects but also those behind the camera. Held in November in Milan, the 2020 event will be a hybrid of digital and outdoor art experiences to account for the global situation.

While Alessia has called Milan home for nearly her entire life, she was born in Palermo surrounded by a family of artisans – her father, noted fashion photographer Marco Glaviano, whose work graced American Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, her great uncle, Gino Severini, an Italian painter and leader of the futurist movement and another uncle, Nino Franchina, a renowned sculptor.

Photo by Amber Pinkterton
Photo by Bettina Pittalunga

After graduating from Milan’s Bocconi University with a degree in Political Economy, Alessia moved to NYC in the 90s with the intention of working for the United Nations, passionate about human rights and injustice in the world. But her creative DNA had other plans. She worked as an assistant at Pier 59, the famous photo studio co-founded by her father, and then at Art + Commerce, a prestigious photo agency, hobnobbing with some of the world’s most famous supermodels and the likes of Steven Meisel and Steven Klein. In 2001, a month before 9/11, she was introduced to mastermind Franca Sozzani, Vogue Italia’s then illustrious Editor in Chief. After an interview with Sozzani in Milan, Glaviano returned home with a job in production for Vogue Italia, a position which would catapult her to work under Sozzani for her entire career. The early 2000s proved to be a ground-breaking time for Vogue Italia. Sozzani, having incredible foresight and a bit more creative freedom than her American counterparts, was interested in focusing not only on fashion but inspired her team to touch upon challenging topics such as war, climate disasters, social justice, inclusivity and celebrity culture, long before it was trendy for mainstream media to cover. Glaviano thrived under her tutelage.

Amber,Photo by Justine Tjallinks

Alessia understands how the power of photography can speak about different issues unrelated to fashion. As she puts it, “I always believed fashion is a language, it’s the way we speak to the world.”

Over the years, she realised this was her life’s work, her impegno – to publish editorials which break down the idea of stereotypes and contribute to the world dialogue in a broader sense. Her work with women with disabilities for fashion brands portrays them in a powerful way, avoiding the cliché of the “hero” shot or a sense of pity, in order to take things a step further and normalise the way we deal with disability in our world.

This has been her objective with PhotoVogue, an online community for talented young photographers. Every Monday, Glaviano pours over the 10,000 photos submitted (a maximum of 2 images can be uploaded each time) to select photos for PhotoVogue, while a lucky few have been fortunate enough to also make it into the pages of Vogue Italia or other publications. More than 670,000 photos from over 180,000 photographers have been submitted since the project began, many of whom Glaviano has mentored individually, seeing them grow and flourish in their own careers. Glaviano has developed a deep kinship with these artists, noting who they are and following them on Instagram, where she herself has a highly curated Instagram account. Below are a few of Glaviano’s favourites.

As Glaviano recounts, “in the past we used photography as memory, we used photography as professional photography, we used photography to make statements. But photography wasn’t used like for instance, like, when we write a note to say I’m gonna go to the grocery store and I’m gonna buy… And now we take pictures to take notes sometimes. We take pictures just to share what we’re doing in the moment.”  According to Glaviano, these images serve as a mode of communication and conversation, “not to be remembered for their aesthetic or stand-alone beauty, but as the multitude of the feed you scroll.” For her, social media has also led to a new function in photography, the “wow factor” where, as she explains, people are trying to have more impact aesthetically with images. She sees herself as a curator for what is currently out there, helping people become visually literate. For Alessia, “Instagram is a great tool for photographers, a great tool to be discovered by editors, by curators.” Thanks to Glaviano’s exceptional gift of discovering new talent, she aims to ensure Vogue Italia remains a socially and visually captivating space for inclusive dialogue.

“Untitled (Ashley and Cortney)” by Myles Loftin

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