The just-released autumn/winter collection from fashion house Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) has all the fixings of a standard double-page spread you’d expect to come across in a fashion magazine—long, lean models dressed nicely, dripping with accessories.
However, instead of being draped in uncomfortable-looking positions over expensive furniture, these models are out in the street, alongside mere mortals in their non-designer togs.
It’s an irregular set up, but everything becomes clear once you understand that the photographer responsible for the campaign’s colourful images shot in Italy is more accustomed to capturing the humanity and stark reality of war-torn zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Palestine.
In fact, when Domenico Dolce, one half of fashion giant D&G’s founding duo, called photographer Franco Pagetti to ask him to do the shoot, the photographer thought there must have been a mix-up. While he worked at Vogue Italia very early in his career, he has since honed his craft on more gritty subjects.
It was, in fact, due to—rather than in spite of—his combat zone experience that Pagetti was approached for the task, with his bravery, ingenuity and skill attracting the Italian design house. Dolce informed Pagetti that he would like him to produce “a simple reportage” of their clothes in Naples.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Pagetti revealed that his immediate response was to insist on doing things his way. “The campaign cannot be a report like I am used to, “ he reportedly told the designer. “In Baghdad and Libya, I walk around on my own taking pictures. I don’t have a bunch of people surrounding me.”
Per his instructions, make-up artists, hairdressers and assistants were not permitted to hang around the shoot. “I want to be alone with my story and the people in front of my camera,” he commented. “More than the models the people of Napoli should be the star of the campaign.”
The resulting images have a striking realism lacking in most high-fashion ads, though it is immediately clear that the models are enjoying themselves, walking down Naples’ famed main street Spaccanopoli. For their part, the incidental extras seemed to enjoy sharing the street with the impeccably dressed models.
It appears to be the first time the brand has used ‘ordinary’ folk in an advertisement, though it is in line with previous campaigns which feature designer-clad models in everyday settings.
For Pagetti, it was not the switch from conflict observation to fashion photography made made him nervous, but the prospect of dealing with such expensive clothes. “I was scared at first,” he told The Telegraph, adding that any anxiety he had disappeared once Dolce and co-founder Stefano Gabbana gave him the go ahead to “shoot what you need to shoot.”
“For me there is no difference,” he explained. “I don’t like being called a war photographer. I am a photographer because I like history, I like people. For me, taking pictures of these beautiful clothes in the middle of Napoli (Naples) was an amazing story.
“Everyone can take a picture in a studio. People want realness. I encouraged the models to show their souls because we are all are tired of seeing unnatural shoots.”