Verso la Luce. Towards the light

Simona Marani, Fotografare, 25 August 2022


Towards light


What Bruce Weber's shots have been radiating for more than five decades and revolutionising the visual lexicon, dialogues with the gallery space inhabited by Pancho Saula.


It is a hot summer this year, but it would serve what Bruce Weber's shots have been radiating for over five decades, to make it bright, with all its shadows, the rich dichromates of vitality and the dichotomies of desire. What is needed is the light that amplifies the joys of life, with the complex spectacle of emotions and feelings, as it is doing with the favour of the glass walls of the Fine Art Gallery Alta in Anyós.


The reflections of what also change the boundaries between inside and outside. Inside the gallery inhabited by the passion for light and photography of Pancho Saula, with his family and the thirty-two prints of the famous American photographer, selected for an exhibition season of Turn to the light, open until next winter.


The installation amplifies the already broad concept of home, of the gallery inhabited by the vibrations of life, art and photography, as Bruce Weber has already done with commercial assignments that have made him famous and more personal projects. All realised with the sentimental and professional support of a partner as Nan Bush and their beloved animals, together with collaborators and friends, made part of one big family. In the pages of the more personal books such as The Golden Retriever Photographic Society (Tashen, 2021), as much as in those of A House is Not a Home (Bulfinch Press, 1966), where it is the inner landscape that fills the rooms and inhabits the spaces of different creative personalities.


It matters little whether they rise from the ghost ranch in New Mexico of a mother of American Modernism like Georgia O'Keefe, or the Las Vegas suite (full of verve and tigers) of the German-born illusionist couple Siegfried and Roy. The search for desire The secret of the charm and success of the young Leonardo DiCaprio, was irradiated by the shot Weber took at Coney Island for the famous Interview magazine founded by Andy Warhol.


The dynamic and darting male bodies with which he revolutionized more than the visual lexicon about masculinity, desire, and fashion photography, are on show with a selection of prints that touch on the highlights of Bruce Weber's career and fame. Images of yesterday and those of today skilfully blended into his contemporary universe. Open to all. Like the invitation, made film by Weber with Everybody's Coming to My House, shot for the collector's issue ICON 58 (March 2020), with the same spirit that animates his shots of celebrities dedicated to philanthropy, in more than 100-page portfolio of the men's fashion and lifestyle magazine.


The activism of many personalities on display at Anyós, including Leonardo DiCaprio's foundation concerned with vulnerable ecosystems, supermodel Christy Turlington's maternity-sensitive one, or the Beautiful and Damned, River Phoenix & Keanu Reeves, while no less than three different covers also include Weber's portrait by philanthropist David Bowie. In his search for all forms of desire, he remains sensitive to more intimate and spontaneous perspectives of form and beauty, body, identity and freedom, also for the transgressive temperament of supermodels like Kate Moss, or the renamed 'Trinity' formed by Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. The desire for eternal love and commitment is infused by Christy Turlington to Calvin Klein's Eternity fragrance and its advertising campaign from 1988 to 2006, together with her husband Ed Burns and their children.


Without discriminating against the swing laid bare with the Obsession campaign or the more natural version of 'l'amore che move il cielo e l'altre stelle' ('the love that moves heaven and the other stars') and her journey from hell to heaven. Not only for Dante Alighieri or the motorists of Times Square, 'distracted' by the candid briefs worn by Brazilian Olympic athlete 'Tom' Hintnaus, photographed on the Greek island of Santorini for the Calvin Klein underwear campaign. One of the '10 images that changed America for American Photographer magazine (1989).


Surely, People's attitude toward the rigid and stale figure of the American man. Redefining image and imagery Weber redefines image and imagery with Calvin Klein's outrageous and provocative fashion statements, determined to put men on an equal footing with women, as they do today with their unisex underwear collections and campaigns in the rediscovering more fluid world. Working with designers such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, Weber simultaneously redefined the image and role of America, not only in the history of the fashion industry dominated by Milan, Paris and London.


He does the same with stars or the unknowns destined to become stars, stripped bare or just topless, for the American style of the cult brand Abercrombie & Fitch's controversial campaigns. Years of editorials for Vogue, evolving along with the changes in the star-studded country. Weber photographed the Somali supermodel Iman and David Bowie in South Africa with Nelson Mandela, or the last photoshoot of Michael Jackson, made for L'Uomo Vogue, two years before the death of the King of Pop.


The ability to address the light does not ignore the shadows with more social projects, such as the one focusing on the Haitian refugee community in Miami, particularly discriminated against by immigration laws after the 9/11 attacks.


A matter of passion and natural light The one thing that never changes is Bruce Weber's passion for natural light and the analogue photographic process. The intimacy of the experience he creates, with the depth of field of film and the beauty of the strokes he does not like to retouch, valuing even overexposures and blurs. Distinctive traits of his aesthetic, almost as much as the aplomb with which he overcomes misunderstandings, controversy and controversy, or wears his all-weather bandana, his colourful scarf and one of his cameras. It matters little whether it is Rolleiflex TLR, Pentax 6x7, Leica 35mm, or all those that cover him in the self-portrait that takes for the autumn/winter 2009-2010 campaign of the Moncler down jackets. Also worn by his enterprising Golden Retrievers, with whom he has long supported a world leader in pet therapy such as the Association Green Chimneys, sharing the benefits on wellbeing and creativity of his relationship with animals.


This relationship has been influencing shots and projects since the beginning of Weber's career as a fashion photographer and filmmaker. When his dogs did not steal the scene from naked models like Rob Born in Vogue, inspired the film poetics and title of A Letter To True (2003), went through the Pirelli Calendar (1998-2003) or promoted the cultural renaissance of Detroit together with the local brand Shinola. Many dogs and not only Golden Retrievers, from the first large Newfoundland, to the small Pitbull, picked up on the street and renamed 'Billie Holiday' for the blues that animate her gaze.


The art projects and 8 mm films made with his father and his sister Barbara on Sundays, or the Italian films shown on Mondays in the small town just outside Pittsburgh (Greensburg, 29 March 1946), certainly exerted a great influence on Bruce Weber's education and his ability to imagine lives other than his own, never losing sight of universal emotions and feelings.


The America he explored and began to photograph, while he maintained his acting studies at New York University, working as a model and as an assistant for Saul Leiter, before meeting Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus who encouraged him to take advantage of the training of a teacher of life and photography such as Lisette Model. To her influence we perhaps owe the portrait of former boxing champion Andy Minsker in Broken Noses (1987), the jazz portrait of Chet Baker in Let's Get Lost (1988), or that of a self-taught photojournalist like Paolo di Paolo in The Treasure of his Youth (2021), while the photographer and filmmaker of the America that inhabits the world, received the keys to the city of Florence, on the occasion of the 102nd edition of Pitti Immagine Uomo, presenting a short film for the 70th anniversary of the historic local jeans brand Roy Roger's, projected on the arch in Piazza della Repubblica.

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