Photographer: Fabrizio Gianni

I can't help but feel inspired with the work of Italian fashion photographer Fabrizio Gianni, it's very beautiful, classy, elegant, with a lot of style in a masculine way, scans simply don't do them justice.

And I was afraid that I couldn't find anything about him online, no info, no pictures, not even an official website, nothing! practically only the pictures that I've posted here in the blog, there's a fashion brand named Fabrizio Gianni but it has nothing to do with the photographer.

It's sad that things that happened before the Internet explosion are almost forgotten, Fabrizio was a big one, his pictures were published in major magazines and it seems nobody remembers him, he should be included in this list of UNDERRATED MASTER OF PHOTOGRAPHY.

But the miracle happened and I found an article from 6 years ago and it's a treasure, I will repost it at the end of the post.

"Palmy Days, Spring Sportswear That Evokes The Elegance of a Bygone Era"
Year: May 1989
Models: Grant Caradine and a female model
Ph: Fabrizio Gianni
Photographed at Casa Marina, Key West, Florida
Hair: Patricia Agressott for Oribe at Parachute , N.Y.C

Fashion: Polo Hosiery by Ralph Lauren, Benetton, Levis Strauss and Co., Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic, Agnés B, J.Crew, Perry Ellis, Gap, Guess, Kikit, Bill Blass, Calvin Klein.
Published Date: 29 February 2004

A HANDSOME man strides along a pebbled beach in New England.
These vignettes, full of pulsing sexual tension, intrigue and half-glimpsed dramas, hint at stories going on behind the scenes. And yet they are fashion stills. All were featured in glossy magazines and were conceived by Fabrizio Gianni.

The 65-year-old, who has lived and worked in Rome, Milan, London, Paris, New York and Tokyo, now resides in Falkirk with his Scottish wife, a model turned advocate. When we meet in his home on a quiet street, Gianni has just returned from a shoot in his native Rome. The house is unassuming from the outside, but once inside you are greeted by something else entirely. There’s a delicate, coloured-glass Venetian chandelier, paintings hung from ribbons and bows, spindly, ornate Italian furniture and, everywhere, framed photographs, from sepia tints of his parents and grandparents to portraits of his wife as a fresh-faced young model in the early 1980s, as well as close-ups of the couple’s two startlingly beautiful children.

As we sip fiercely strong espresso from delicate china cups, Gianni leafs through his portfolio, revealing a life’s work of images of beautiful and sensual people, dressed by Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren, and posing against some of the most exotic backdrops the world has to offer.

Gianni, whose work has graced Elle, Vogue and GQ, to name a few, is no ordinary photographer. He began his career in the cinema, working alongside directors Luchino Visconti and Roberto Rossellini, then enjoyed a successful career in Hollywood, most notably as assistant director to Sergio Leone on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. On the walls are stills of Gianni on film sets with Leone, Gary Oldman, Ben Kingsley, John Cassavetes and Gina Lollobrigida. This cinematic past has always informed his photography, and he has never lost his eye for scene-setting or his flair for the dramatic.

According to Gianni, not only did he discover a young Klaus Kinski for A Few Dollars More in 1965, he also originated Clint Eastwood’s poncho-wearing, cigar-chomping gunman hero. "I used to write scripts and created the character of El Puro for Sergio Leone when he was making A Fistful of Dollars in 1964," he says. "It was a collaboration with [director/actor] Fernando Lamas and it was a play on the Spanish word puro, which means ‘cigar’ and also ‘the pure one’. Sergio paid me £50 for El Puro - I never dreamed he would become one of the most recognisable film characters in the world."

One of four children born to a wealthy industrialist and an elegant lady who lunched, Gianni studied chemistry and physics in preparation for entering the family business. But a year spent working in their chemical firm put him off. He returned to Rome and enrolled in film school, after which he began working with Leone - still a relative unknown in the 1960s.

It was smoulderingly sexy actress and amateur photographer Lollobrigida who taught Gianni to use a camera and encouraged his interest in photography. And it was none other than Rossellini who advised him to turn professional. "He asked me how many photographers I could name, and I came up with a handful; then he asked how many cinema directors I knew, and 50 sprang to mind," he recalls. "He told me there were plenty of directors but hardly any exceptional photographers, and that I should not waste my talent."

He took the great director’s advice and touted his portfolio - stuffed with stills of the film stars he’d worked with - around the offices of Italy’s picture editors. They were impressed not only by the images but by his stellar contact book. "I spent 15 years working for the magazine Amica, where I really learned my trade, taking 300 pictures a week of everything from fashion to product shots. I couldn’t believe the money I was earning. In those days you could make £20,000 in half an hour for photographing deodorants."

He learned how to be a fashion photographer by re-shooting Helmut Newton covers for Vogue and Elle, replicating the poses and lighting when magazines needed pictures re-shot because, say, a designer had pulled out of an advertising deal. As Gianni moved up the ranks to work for Elle, Marie Claire, Vogue and GQ, the lessons he learned in film served him well, giving his photographs a unique quality. "I learned attention to detail from directors such as Enrico Bolognino, who would insist on using real champagne in scenes so we got the right pop, and who paid attention to how everything looked. When a couple went to bed he would re-shoot until he was satisfied the petticoat she had taken off landed in a pleasing way. It seems simple, but it’s not. It’s very difficult."

GQ 1989

insists this same attention to detail went into the historical research that informed the wardrobe and props departments for the Italian-made westerns. "People call them spaghetti westerns, but in fact they are far more accurate portrayals of what the American west was like in the 1860s than anything made by John Ford, because we didn’t glamorise the period. I carried out a lot of research and discovered that rifles were rare and hardly ever used, and that the cavalry used a symbol of crossed rifles rather than the emblem of the crossed swords used by Ford."

Gianni’s eye for detail means he sources props himself, aiming to tell a nostalgic and romantic story woven around the lingerie, shoes and clothes being photographed. "I never lost sight of the fact that my job was to persuade women they should remember the clothes - that they are beautiful and sexy, but in fact it is the model who is beautiful and sexy, not the dress she is wearing. Designers don’t always think about the women they are designing for and it’s my job to put the clothes into settings, to show them being worn. When they are on the catwalk they are not really clothes, they are surrealistic works of art. I have to make them look real."

He accomplishes this by creating storylines reminiscent of a lost past that is partly drawn from photographs of his parents taken in the 1940s, and of his grandparents from the 1920s, with a bit of inspiration from Hollywood’s golden era. Thus his photographs are full of people who appear to have landed from another era, as if they have stepped out of a film. One 25-page fashion spread recounts the story of Hemingway’s The Moveable Feast, inspired by his nights in Paris, going on drunken pub crawls with F Scott Fitzgerald. Another pays tribute to 1920s silent movie actress turned fine art photographer Tina Modotti, who took part in the Mexican revolution and befriended Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

David Eustace, one of Scotland’s leading young photographers, says of Gianni’s work, "His photographs are timeless classics. They capture a period but they are also believable. He is one of the old school - a fashion photographer who loves photography. Today’s fashion photography tends to be gimmicky, using digital cameras and manipulated with computer technology, but Fabrizio’s photographs tell a story in a filmic way."

Working a camera, Gianni admits, is child’s play. It is the art of photography that is difficult, requiring a photographer to express his artistic intuition with a "lyrical spirituality". He says, "An eight-year-old child can use a camera. It’s how you use the light that is important and I only use natural light because God is the best photographer. I very rarely allow the models to use make-up. Foundation shows up and it’s very artificial. If a girl has skin like a peach, why would I want to see it covered in make-up?"

His search for romance twinned with innocence and fresh-faced beauty drew Gianni to Scotland, where he has tried to capture the "eccentricity" of our culture. He has an Italian’s romanticised view of British women - careless of their toilette, happy to walk the dogs in faces bare of make-up, wearing old shoes, lumpy sweaters and a weathered jacket. "Scottish women are fantastic. They don’t care about clothes or appearance, and that makes them free. In Paris or Rome a woman would never go out in anything less than the most fashionable pair of shoes and that season’s dress. Here, my wife wears broken shoes and I have to force her to buy new clothes."

He shows me pictures taken during the tartan revival of the 1990s, shot on the beaches of St Andrews with models wearing 1920s-style tartan, tweed and caps. Another shoot features a Bonnie Prince Charlie storyline and took place in Aberfeldy using Vivienne Westwood clothes. "I wanted to capture the tomboy look. They are so natural with no make-up. Only British girls look like that. There are no other girls in the world like them. They are very eccentric. At my son’s end-of-term ball at Dollar Academy, at the end of the night the young girls were walking about in bare feet, carrying their shoes. Italian women would never do that - they are too sissy."

Given his fascination with Scottish women, it is no surprise that his wife, Gail Inglis, hails from Falkirk. He met the former model in Milan 20 years ago. Despite having lived all over the world, Gianni insists he feels perfectly at home in this less than romantic corner of Scotland. "I am a Scot psychologically. They have family values that have been lost in countries like Italy and France," he says. But he admits to having mixed feelings about Scotland itself. "It is still a barbarian country, but somehow I like it. I find the barbarousness very attractive. When the French ambassador was sent to Scotland to arrange the engagement of Mary Queen of Scots to the Dauphin when they were three and four years old, he wrote back to the king of France describing Scotland as un pays de sauvages, which means a country of wild men. I would amend that to un pays adorable de sauvages.

"Although it is a modern country and has a well-educated population, it is still very wild. I find the Scots lacking in taste of food and clothing. They are very basic, but the fantastic part is they are very happy and that means man can do without these superficial idiocies. Some people call it barbarism but it’s also a kind of freedom. I adore the eccentricity. The only other place in Europe you find the same relaxed and funny mentality is Naples.

"I feel at home here; not once have I felt like a foreigner. Everywhere else in the world I feel like an Italian, but here they make you feel like you belong. I’m not an Italian here, I’m a person."

Now more or less retired, Gianni picks and chooses his assignments, insisting he doesn’t miss the world of high fashion. "Models today are asking ridiculous money and make in two hours what some people work a lifetime for," he says. "It is obscene, and fashion is now just about branding in order to sell perfume. I’m happy to have settled down in Scotland. I’ve been on too many aeroplanes."


Anonymous said...

I just searched for Fabrizio on a whim, and I found your great blog. I was fortunate to have my first shoot be with Fabrizio for Olmes Carretti's Best Company in Mexico in 1988 (Eric Perram and Gerald Olswang were the seasoned pros on the the job - really great guys). Fabrizio is a phenomenal photographer, and I remember him as a really remarkable and kind person. Thanks to Fabrizio, the Best Company shoot, and Omar at Omar's Men, I was lucky enough to shoot some fun jobs, including GQ with Mario Testino and Harper's Bazaar with Rico Puhlmann. Thanks for reviving some great memories!

Johec said...

thanks a lot for commenting and sharing your great memories :) I was curious and googled "Olmes Carretti" and found, they have the Best Company shoot with Gerald Olswang, not sure if the blonde guy is Eric.

btw, were you a model? tell us more about what you did with Testino and the great Puhlman. ;)

Erin Canny said...

Frabrizio gianni is my uncle and a great photgrapher ! Everything posted in this blog is ture and i admire him greatly.

Johec said...

I agree, fantastic uncle you have :)

Anonymous said...

Fabrizio had more influence on the era you so love than any other photographers of that time. He had an eye for the plain that photgraphed extroardinary. He reminded me of Hemingway, although he did not drink like Ernest. Great sense of humor as well. He taught me more about life than photography. Deserves more praise and fame than he has.

Johec said...

totally! I just love his work and can't understand why there are so many famous overrated photographers out there and this man so underrated.

thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

He was the greatest. If you do a photo by photo comparison between his work and any of the more "famous" photographers, they ALL pale by comparison. He was not glorifying the male (or female) form, he was capturing life in the most beautiful pictures that told a story as well. He only used models that were also real people, no make-up ever on males or females, just real life. Great guy as well, never a dull moment.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures of Carradine, he was a throwback o the 30's and 40's, very normal guy as well.

Johec said...

Grant is one of my fave models and it seems a favourite of Fabrizio Gianni too. I wonder what would happen with him, the latest picture I've seen of him is a webfind from 2003, I will post it in the facebook box.

"no make-up ever on males" <---- that's perfect!!! :)

I really like the way you describe his work, I couldn't have said it better.

Anonymous said...

Need to get you some pictures that represent the range of Giannis work. He really could do it all in regards to fashion. He knew every step that he was goin to take for the entire shooting before he took a picture. So very different from the tired and overused shirtless guy with sad eyes. It was original in 1982, but lets get some new material guys. In 100 years they will be studying the pictures of Fabrizio in fashion and photography classes, not sure the same will be happening for the other "superstars" of fashion. What do we have to do to get Fabrizio listed in the "Photographers" section of your site?

Johec said...

feel free to contribute with F.Gianni pictures :)

there's a very nice GQ ed with Grant Caradine and Bruce Hulse, I'll scan it this week ;)

the photographers listed are links to their websites, if Fabrizio had one it would be there of course!

Unknown said...

My name is Mark and I had the pleasure of working with Fabrizio in 1981 on several bookings. I was a model with an agency called Fashion Model (Luigi Salvioli) in Milan where Fabrizio booked me. We did a shoot in Morocco (Marrakech and Ouarzazarte) for a week for Arbiter Magazine (Marina Rossi) and other shoots in Milan studios for Men's Vogue and a few other magazines. He had an assistant then named Pasqaule. Fabrizio was the one who gave me the break to become a successful European model as he liked to be the first to work with promising unkowns.

Working with him was fantastic. He knew and visualized the picture he wanted before he shot it. Themes, props, locations, etc. were meticulously planned before the image was taken and his professionalism was unsurpassed. I remember one photo series in particular where we were in a Marrakesh square shooting a line of clothes with cobra snakes surrounding me. Fabrizio had a way about him that working in such a situation was invigorating because the shot would be worth it. He would take industry breaking photos and use a fictitious name for the photo credits because of his humility.

Socializing with him was equally rewarding. His detailing and sharing of his life experiences and knowledge was fascinating. He also had a pretty good tennis game. He is the type of person that whether your working with him or breaking bread with him, it is an experience you will never forget. He had a very positive impact on my life. Thanks Fabrizio!

I agree with the comments concerning Fabrizio not receiving more praise and stature as one of the elite superphotographers of his time. In my eyes, he deserves to be, and is, in the same category as Aldo Falai, Bruce Webber, Herb Ritts and other well known fashion photographers. Fabrizio was an instrumental fashion photographer paving the way for many who came afterwards.

Johec said...

thanks Mark for taking time to share memories, I really enjoy to read things about photographers that I like :)

The fashion world has been very ungrateful with many of the great photographers.

aren't you listed in

Unknown said...

Hi Johec,

No, and I'm not 100% sure why I'm not listed on I think it's because my zed card wasn't printed by Marlowe. I'm not sure if that is a pre-requisite or not to be included in the listing. If not, I'm happy to forward on whatever is required to be included in the listing. I would just need the information to do so.

I saw in an above post that you might be interested in a montauge of Fabrizio's work. I still possess some of my tearsheets from working with Fabrizio and would be glad to upload. Let me know if you have specific upload instructions.

Johec said...

Hi Mark, I think that website is all about cards published by Marlowe.

Oh and It would great to see your work with Fabrizio or any other photographer.

you can send me the pictures to my email :,:)) is it ok?, then I would post them here in the website.

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