Launching this week in Milan, Photo Vogue Festival inaugurated its fifth edition with a focus on “conscious fashion photography,” examining the link between ethics and aesthetics.
Photo Vogue Festival, which began in 2016, was spearheaded by Alessia Glaviano, Senior Photo Editor for Vogue Italia and L’Uomo Vogue. Previous editions have featured iconic figures in fashion photography (namely Vanessa Beecroft, Sølve Sundsbø, and Paolo Roversi), but it’s always the new wave of up-and-coming photographers that has made Photo Vogue Festival such a powerful phenomenon. It has served as a locus for watching new generations tackle and deconstruct pressing topics that have dominated the cultural conversation about gender, diversity, politics, and the power of the gaze.
This year's main exhibition, All in This Together, is a group show featuring 30 photographers and, by extension, a multifaceted spectrum of expressive and artistic visions. These creatives were selected via vogue.it, an online platform and scouting initiative where users can share their own photographs, monitored by professional photo editors. The exhibition, it goes without saying, is digital—though if you’re lucky enough to live in Milan, partial sections are displayed outdoors, until November 30th, in the Giardini di Porta Venezia. This year’s federating theme is a hopeful one, because despite the turmoil and wreckage of a worldwide pandemic, unity and visibility create the emotional foundations people so fundamentally need.
We’ve singled out five participating photographers whose visually compelling approaches and engagement with identity caught our eye.
American photographer Kennedi Carter is committed to featuring the Black subject, at once championing the beauty and politically-charged reality of Black community. The subjects who make up her photographs range widely: a little girl with her arms up and her eyes closed against a blue sky, in a dreamy moment of interiority; a woman pole dancing naked, tattoos coating her neck, chest, arms, legs and pelvis; a queer couple clasping each other in bed, one with a defiant gaze, the other looking sorrowful; a pregnant woman in a negligée looking forlornly out of frame from the perch on her leather couch.
Carter has been garnering a lot of attention for her Beyoncé December 2020 cover for British Vogue, on stands earlier this month. An accompanying piece about her remarks that she “is younger than Irving Penn, whose first image appeared on the cover of Vogue when he was 26, and David Bailey, who was 23 when he captured the February 1961 cover.”
Moroccan photographer M'hammed Kilito was born in Russia, studied in Canada, and is based in Rabat. He addresses issues relating to cultural identity in Morocco, specifically the way Moroccan youth are challenging tradition with the series “Among You.” These portraits feature people considered weirdos and outliers relative to the conservative norms in Morocco, because of their personal style or sexuality. Regardless of the judgment and pushback they face, in public or from their own families, they are pushing new perceptions of selfhood in “a country that they feel is not progressing at the same pace as they are,” Kilito states. Among these alluring nonconformists are a woman with a dark Goth look, a woman who loves weightlifting, a woman whose hyperpigmentation has become such a signature that designers and photographers clamor to work with her.
Myles Loftin, still a student at Parsons School of Design, blends portraiture and fashion photography using a palette of pastels or orchestrating pop playfulness. His subjects are often LGBTQ+ friends or family, themed around Black representation and celebrating the queer community. He uses his own circle to confirm the subjects’ authenticity: “I want to show what the people close to me are like,” Loftin told Aperture. Moreover, he added: “An image can be a great way to fight back against racist narratives. That’s what I’d like my images to do.” In 2016, Loftin released the photo/video project HOODED—prompted after he noticed a staggeringly different results when he Googled the word with “white” or “black” in front of it—to shift the unfairly loaded perception of young Black men. His work was part of The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion, a successful traveling show curated by Antwaun Sargent.
Nick Van Tiem
Amsterdam-based photographer Nick Van Tiem uses photography as a way to suss out “his own interpretations and misinterpretations of the world,” as he puts it. Having studied documentary photography at the Royal Academy of Art, the Dutch photographer has since pivoted to portraiture and more stylized, graphic palettes in unexpected places like the frozen food aisle of the grocery store or a model airplane competition.
He captures an assortment of youthful subjects, all deadpan-cool: wearing three-cornered hats in Cape Town, or sporting hoodies at the Van Gogh Museum (backgrounded by irises like the ones in a series the painter made in the last year before his death in 1890), or loitering in bright parking lots in Miami while wearing Versace.
Venezuelan-born Silvana Trevale, now based in the UK, left her native land in her teens. Her most recent project, Venezuelan Youth, documents the disquieting crisis the country is facing through the kids and adolescents trying to enjoy downtime together or hang out on the beach even as the country struggles desperately with shortages of food and medicine. Trevale conveys the heartbreak and solidarity she feels for her homeland, but also creates distance from these burdens to honor the integrity of her subjects. The series is tied to two other projects chronicling the lives of Venezuelan communities: Nosotras, in which Trevale photographed women in her family, as well as young women who left the country to find better opportunities for themselves, emphasizing both their collective struggles and bravery, and Warm Rain, the second chapter of Venezuelan Youth exploring the wearying uncertainty three families of different socio-economic status face.
By Sarah Moroz
Sarah Moroz is a Franco-American journalist and translator based in Paris. She writes about photography, art, and various other cultural topics.
Photo Vogue Festival 2020
Launching on November 19, 2020
Outdoor Exhibitions – Giardini di Porta Venezia, Milan, Italy
On view through 22 November 2020