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giovanni gastel

Marta Innocenti Ciulli

March 15, 2021

Dedicated to you. An intense memory of Giovanni Gastel, written by those who knew him well.

Giovanni Gastel, the great fashion photographer who left us on March 13

I went up the little road that connects the port to the church of Filicudi. A very small road in the middle of the fields, if fields can be called those of summer baked by the August sun. He would go down. 

Giovanni Gastel ritrae la sua isola di Filicudi

We knew each other for our work, but on vacation we are not allowed to talk about it.  "Hello what are you doing, what stone have you found? - What the island gives me every year: a heart. I have a collection of them now, many, big and small, this one I give you Giovanni, the island is generous with me, I'll find another.  We say goodbye to him with my heart of stone. In September, one morning the letter carrier gives me a big tube, like the ones that architecture students carry on their shoulders. I don't understand, I open it almost tearing the cardboard. I pull out a very large photo: the heart of stone stands out against a white optical background.

Giovanni Gastel (Milano, 27 dicembre 1955 – Milano, 13 marzo 2021)

It seems to me that I can touch the granularity of the stone, the iron gray interrupted by tiny red dots on a swollen heart sculpted by water; a sculptor would have struggled to make it. The photo has been there ever since, hanging on the wall. It's the first thing you notice when you enter my house. During that summer he also showed me a preview of some photos of what would have been his new exhibition Masks and Spectres in Milan at Palazzo Reale (October 2009). Those photos were breathtaking. 

Maschere e spettri, la mostra monografica di Giovanni Gastel nel 2009 a Milano a Palazzo Reale

Giovanni Gastel is one of the greatest fashion photographers of our time. A polite man, gentlemen of photography as he had been renamed, he would kiss your hand with the naturalness with which one bends to pick a flower, he knew how to talk to everyone, exalting sensitivity and softening roughness. 
Big and imposing, from his six feet tall, he captured the beauty of whatever he looked at. A man who sought to tell the story of life through his vantage point of observation, a poet of photography. Already in the eighties he had his own style, overturning the image of still life: from photos with many accessories stacked one on top of the other, to photos on a white background where the protagonist object stood out. 

White, snowy, dazzling backgrounds with no shadows were his identity card in monthly magazines such as Donna, the magazine we used to feed on in fashion. The large format Polaroid with the 20x25 view camera. One shot. Just one. Then came the advertising campaigns of the greats of Italian fashion and then of the greats of French fashion. The exhibitions, the last one at the Maxxi in Rome The People I Like and the black and white portraits, to which he dedicated himself in recent times.

The People I Like, Giovanni Gastel, Museo Maxxi

Hi Giovanni, you left without warning, leaving us a deafening silence that will tell us about you every time we look at one of your photos or read your passionate poems like waves of emotions. 


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