Wrrphoto's Blog

August 17, 2010

Paolo Pellegrin’s STORM

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 11:33 PM

Welcome back! As some of you know I have been out of commission for most of the summer and am just now getting back behind the lens and back into the swing of things. I am working on a few new projects, and will start posting photos from them in the near future. It’s been a crazy summer, but some good has come of it as well. To begin with, I was a finalist in the Celebrity/Editorial category of PDN Magazine’s Faces contest, and two of my UT Football images were published in their July issue. I have also been placed in the permanent collection of another museum, and once receipt of the images into the collection is finalized I will post more details. Finally, I have booked my first solo show here in Austin! It will be in November, and as soon as the dates are finalized I will post more information. But enough about me, let’s get to some blogging!

As I am still generating new content of my own I figured it best to do a short review of a new book by my favorite photographer period, Mr. Paolo Pellegrin of Magnum Photos. Now, I am no critic, nor do I play one on TV, so keep in mind this is my impression of what I see. I will from time to time try and do brief reviews of books put out by some of my favorite photographers, and this is the first.

Paolo was the photographer whose work I saw and fell in love with almost immediately after picking up a camera. More importantly it had a powerful effect on me, and altered what I though was possible with a camera. His work seems to speak to the heart first, and then trickles its way through your body until finally being realized in your mind. His book As I Was Dying is and has been my favorite photo book of all time. For those unfamiliar, I highly recommend checking out his work on the Magnum Website (here). Paolo is a contract photographer for Newsweek, and has won virtually every award possible for a photographer from the Robert Capa to an incredible 8 first place finishes in a variety of categories at POYi. His resume is unrivaled and the accolades well deserved.

Known primarily as a conflict/reportage photographer, Poalo’s new book STORM is an exhilarating departure from his work of the past. STORM is the title of this year’s Fashion Magazine put out by Magnum Photos. Each year Magnum selects one of their own to photograph the Fashion Magazine in a way that is uniquely and personally their own. Past photographers to tackle the Fashion Magazine include Martin Parr, Lise Sarfati, and Alec Soth. For this year’s issue they selected Paolo, and I am thrilled with the outcome.



Before I continue further, all photos used in this post are copyright of Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos. Please do not use them without being granted proper permission. If you want more of this awesomeness please visit Paolo’s portfolio page here.

STORM is the single most interesting piece of fashion work I have seen to date. The images range from fashion to landscapes to nudes and portraits. In order to create such a diverse group of images, Pellegrin traveled around the world, from New York to Tokyo to Iceland. Pellegrin’s images are infused with the romantic quality of a poet, yet are melancholy at the same time. This results in a powerful emotional response to the images, a response that can often times be addicting!


It is this very quality that has at times brought criticism to Pellegrin’s work, however I feel the criticism is unfounded. I have heard some critics claim that subjects such as war and death should not be treated as such, and I could not disagree more. To begin with, we have been so over-saturated with typical war images that at this point they fail to move anyone other than photographers. Pellegrin’s images stand out and therefore gain a salience not found in other photographers work. More importantly, people are flat out missing the point. Pellegrin is trying to tell the world something with his work, yet he does not come straight out and say it. Rather he gives you clues, presents you with images that cause you to ask questions, rather than present you with neatly packaged answers. These questions lead you to seek your own answers, and often lead you to surprising revelations. He has done this his entire career, and in doing so has shown us that there indeed is beauty in the horrible events that befall humanity, and that an image of someone dying does not have to be a celebration of the event that took that persons life, but rather a celebration of that individual’s spirit…a spirit that resides in each of us. He simultaneously cautions us about our own nature, revealing the horrible things that we do to ourselves, others, and our environment.

So what does this have to do with fashion? Everything. As I mentioned, Fashion Magazine is supposed to be handled in a uniquely individual manner, and Pellegrin has taken his message and brought it to fashion.


The title STORM is meant to signify transition, and the metaphor is carried throughout the book. In general it is meant to signify the transition humanity is going through, although it is also used with the models themselves, who gradually gain more clothing as the book goes on. There is also amazing transition throughout the book, as we move from powerful waterfalls to the night skyline of Tokyo to serene, almost haunting, tree lines viewed from below at night. Even the paper transitions as we move from a more thick stock to an almost rice paper for a series of eerie portraits and then back to thicker stock.


However the most prominent message of transition appears to be Pellegrin again whispering to us that we should be aware of something. This time it is our effect on our environment. Much of the transition in the book is from graceful, stunning, untouched landscapes to equally stunning, entirely manmade cityscapes. Pellegrin shows us our human tendency to conquer (or annihilate)  nature and continue our sprawl by sublimating nature along the way. It leaves one with a sense of maybe not having done enough for our dear mother Earth, yet at the same time gives us hope that we still have time to do something. This idea is reinforced by the essays included in the book authored by those in the world of fashion who are speaking up for environmentally sustainable or responsible methods. Portraits of such individuals are also interspersed throughout the book. The manner in which Pellegrin chooses to speak to us is poetic, eloquent, and a welcome repose from the blunt imagery often favored (such as Steven Meisel’s recent Vogue Italia spread titled “Water & Oil”..and I like Meisel most of the time!) in magazines today.

In summary, STORM is a visually stunning journey into fashion, the environment, and our own ideas of personal responsibility. Quite a hefty achievement for a “fashion magazine”. He is an artist in the highest sense of the word, and I for one hope he continues to find innovative ways of letting us in on his message.





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