Stefano Guindani: next stop Burning Man

Stefano Guindani in Haiti – ph courtesy SGP

When you place side by side two very different shots taken by Stefano Guindani, you will notice a very thin, red thread that seems to be running through them as a common denominator, a shared soul marking the difference between what’s true and pure and some sly trick of a con artist. After all, that’s what pure art is about, that concept of true which doesn’t mean the true way to live or see the world, but it’s more about how you feel it. Guidani: a man who can actually feel people and things.

Where does your passion for photography come from?

It just happened by chance, and it immediately turned into passion. I would stare at cameras and feel a strong attraction to them. When I was ten I went on a camp with the local children at the church; the priest had a tiny camera, but to me it was the most spectacular thing in the world. He ended up giving it to me as a present because he was going to get a better one.

When did you start doing photography as a job?

Back when I was living in Cremona in a printing shop, I would take advantage of the portrait studio in the back to take pictures of my friends. I was also a delivery boy for a big, top-notch advertisement company, so that’s where I started picking up on all the skills and secrets of photography. This is back in the 90’s when all the printing was done on huge, expensive photographic plates. At the same time I began taking pictures at the theater during performances; that’s when I totally fell in love with ballet. I started following the tours of dancers, which gave me that great opportunity to take shots of some great artists like Carla Fracci and Oriella Dorella. Working with some of them allowed my passion to slowly turn into an actual job.

StefanoGuindani_Waltham_00054-2bnALater on you realized that ballet alone couldn’t pay the bills.  

Right. I was twenty five, I moved to Milan where I lived for six, seven years working for a news agency called Olimpia. I tried everything: news, events, fashion shows… till I found my specialty in portraits. I would say my specialization is personal portraits of certain celebrities and people; so I can be taking good pictures of them in any scenario: in action, posing for an event or international magazine cover… with that I can roam through a wide range of photography, extending my knowledge of communication, from the old to the new media, which is extremely interesting.

Yet, that was still not enough. What made you open your own agency 18 years ago?

The work I was doing for Olimpia didn’t quench my thirst, I couldn’t make my own decisions, and I wasn’t totally realized. I believe that it takes courage in this life and I’m happy with my choice. I certainly have much more responsibilities today, but feel like what you’re doing actually belongs to you.

What belongs to you? What do you like best about your job?

I’ve done all sorts of things: advertisement, fashion shows, events, and in the past few years social news report, whose the proceeds were devolved to charity, so to me that’s the best aspect of it: seeing the extreme opposites of the world, wealth and poverty, and living in between. About two years ago in Haiti I got to watch closely the life of those children who barely have anything, yet smile and get excited about small things and attention given to them. It was wonderful. My camera makes me feel like a story writer, an observer and by telling them, maybe I can make a little better change.

That’s a total different work than what you do for Armani.

I’ve been working for Armani for eighteen years, but I don’t think I have a different attitude than when I work in Namibia. In both cases you need to observe reality, to capture the essence of the people and to do it in the most professional way possible. Armani and I still have a very formal, professional relationship.

Stefano Guindani and Giorgio Armani – ph courtesy SGP

What do you appreciate most about Armani?

I admire his compulsive need of control over everything. You can often come across him in the morning, as he’s strolling down via Manzoni, checking the windows of his stores. Though it’s his empire, his name, he always seeks purity and beauty in all he does. He’s one of the most creative people in the world and a men of great inspiration for everyone.

You’ve traveled a lot. What would you say is the difference between being a photographer in Italy and in America?

Anywhere you go you need to work on your credibility. There are tons of photographers in New York, and as I got to observe, there is a bigger interest from the publishing industry. In Italy, instead, publishing is run by a few who join forces to impose their prices. In the US photographers have joined their forces so prices are set on both parts and you can work more professionally. In Italy the interest is to mark down prices, both by the internet and by the brand names and clients.

Is it easy to stand out as a young photographer nowadays?

The hardest thing is to make a living with photography. From the technical point of view, though, it’s easier now that it’s all digital.

You’ve worked in many fields. What do you think is the difference between cinema and fashion?

I can tell you the difference between the photo set: a Model knows exactly what do I want and she works for me in order to get the same result, while actors must be respected for their image; it is your job as a photographer to make them look beautiful and expressive, respecting their nature.

What is success to you?

To have the freedom to manage every day of my life, being appreciated for my work and supporting my family through it.

One last question, what plans do you still want to realize?

I’ve may plans. I’d love to make a photo-shoot during a sand storm at the Burning Man, combining fashion and portraits, of actors or models in clothes designed for that very location.

by Alessandro Parrello

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