The internationally acclaimed photographer Oliviero Toscani, has a habit of hitting the headlines for reasons other than his stunning photography. ElleVogueGQEsquire and Harper’s Bazaar photographer has managed to shock the fashion world and beyond once again.


Over the last 30 years, we’ve got used to his controversial campaigns and shocking photographs. But we haven’t learnt to get used to the intemperance of his public statementsDynamic and irreverent, the photographer has always spoken his mind, sometimes too harshly – when commenting on extremely sensitive subjects. When talking about the tragic Aquila earthquake of 2009, where more than 300 people died, he said he would never re-build the city. He said the city had “betrayed its citizens”, and for this reason they should just leave it behind and go elsewhere. At a recent visit to a famous Italian radio station, he said on-air that he thinks everyone from Veneto is  “un ubriacone” (a drunk), specifying:

“Everyone in Veneto is a drunk. Grandparents, fathers, mothers…”

He also added: “It’s not their fault if they were born there”, and: “The dialect itself sounds as if everyone is drunk.” The funny thing is: Benetton, the Italian brand Toscani started collaborating with back in 1981, is the same brand that changed his career and made him the worldwide renowned visual artist he is today, but it’s a Veneto-founded and based company! And the photographer is so passionate about wine that he produces it himself in his residential farm in Tuscany. Toscani is a creative, talented artist who believes in freedom of expression and civil rights. In particular, he has always condemned racism and anorexia in fashion. Throughout his career he has designed ads around social and political issues such as war, religion and the death penalty, and portrayed them in a strong, colourful, punchy way. And he’s  been heavily  criticised for that. In a 2014 interview with Dazed he declared: “Look, I’m just a photographer, I want to be a witness to my era. I’m not a fashion photographer, I’m not an advertising photographer. I photograph anything that interests me in a way I think is interesting; that’s my philosophy.” The point is not the message, nor the tone. It is not about the “rough” filter on his camera lens, because as he explains perfectly: “There are no shocking pictures, only shocking realities”.

But we have to tell you Oliviero, you ARE a fashion photographer, you actually DO advertising for brands and you’ve been making a living out of it for the past 40 years, working for huge companies which, more  likely than not, exploit anorexia, gender inequality and many other social and ecological issues. The big fashion corporations you have been working for all your life are the same ones that created that heroin-chic concept and many other ‘skinny’ trends of the 90s and the 00s.

You definitively are creative, explicit and controversial with the best of intentions. But what you are not is self-aware.

Anyway, Toscani may have exaggerated with the “drunk’ comment, but the reaction has been even more extreme: reported to the authorities by a barrister, Luca Bacciga, the photographer has been investigated for defamation and was finally exonerated. Now, bring on the next scandal.