The story behind this portrait takes us to Rio De Janeiro, where I met Carlos De Souza. I was shooting a travel/fashion story for Wallpaper Magazine and we were “street casting” for interesting looking locals. The idea was to put designer clothes on these people, and to photograph them in some of the most interesting places in the city. Carlos was laying on the beach at Ipanema when we spotted him. After a few minutes of conversation he told us that Valentino had discovered him on that same beach decades earlier, and that he and his ex wife Charlene Shorto had been working closely with the maestro ever since. We had a wonderful shoot with Carlos, photographing him on the rear deck of the ferry from Rio to Niteroi. Of course, we decked him out in Valentino from head to toe for the shoot.
Upon my return to Paris I made a print for Carlos and booked an appointment to give it to him at the Valentino office on Rue de la Paix. Carlos was out on a last minute meeting when I arrived, but his ex wife was there and came out to greet me. “Cha Cha” (Charlene) and I quickly became great friends (she’s the best!) and the House of Valentino began inviting me to photograph the house’s fashion shows in Paris. Thus began my 5 year documentary project with the dynamic and unsurpassed team at Valentino.
Valentino’s designs, his art, his way of seeing beauty, women, luxury and lifestyle are legendary. I was very interested in what goes on around the shows: fitting the clothes, the rush backstage, the artists, the friends, the socialites, the drama, and of course, Valentino himself.
The setting for this portrait of Valentino and his business partner Giancarlo Giammetti was their country home, Le Chateau de Wideville in Versailles. We were all there for a couture show after-party. The guest list read like a who’s who of fashion, entertainment and celebrity. Tom Ford, Hamish Bowles, Suzy Menkes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Andre Leon Tally, Naomi Campbell, and many more. Before dinner, as the sun went down, the guests were gathered in the garden for cocktails and conversation. This was an very intimate dinner party so I couldn’t bring my “pro” camera and flash system, that would have made some guests feel uneasy. Instead I worked with my Contax T2 “snapshot” camera. Small and discreet, it was the perfect choice for the evening. Valentino and Giancarlo were surrounded by friends and fans at every moment. I wanted to make a portrait of just the 2 of them, but I didn’t want to ask, I wanted something organic, relaxed, spontaneous yet warm. So I waited. Finally, I saw them together, quietly speaking near the sofa. Valentino looked over and gave me a small nod as Giancarlo smiled and took a step closer to the maestro. Click.
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