Born in Ravenna in 1947, Paolo Roversi’s interest in photography was kindled as a teenager during a family vacation in Spain in 1964. Back home, he set up a darkroom in a convenient cellar with another keen amateur, the local postman Battista Minguzzi, and began developing and printing his own black & white work. The encounter with a local professional photographer Nevio Natali was very important: in Nevio’s studio, Roversi spent many hours realizing an important apprenticeship as well as a strong durable friendship.
Paolo Roversi first assignment
In 1970, he started collaborating with the Associated Press: on his first assignment, AP sent Roversi to cover Ezra Pound’s funeral in Venice. During the same year, Roversi opened, with his friend Giancarlo Gramantieri his first portrait studio, located in Ravenna, via Cavour, 58, photographing local celebrities and their families. In 1971, he met by chance in Ravenna, Peter Knapp, the legendary Art Director of Elle magazine. At Knapp’s invitation, Roversi visited Paris in November 1973 and has never left.
Paolo Roversi fashion photography
In Paris, Roversi started working as a reporter for the Huppert Agency but little by little, through his friends, he began to approach fashion photography. The photographers who really interested him then were reporters. At that moment he didn’t know much about fashion or fashion photography. Only later, he discovered the work of Avedon, Penn, Newton, Bourdin, and many others.
The British photographer Laurence Sackman took Roversi on as his assistant in 1974.
Sackmann was very difficult. Most assistants only lasted a week before running away. But he taught me everything I needed to know in order to become a professional photographer. Sackmann taught me creativity. He was always trying new things even if he did always use the same camera and flash set-up. He was almost military-like in his approach to preparation for a shoot. But he always used to say ‘your tripod and your camera must be well-fixed but your eyes and mind should be free’.— Paolo Roversi
Roversi first major fashion story
Roversi endured Sackmann for nine months before starting on his own with small jobs here and there for magazines like Elle and Depeche Mode until Marie Claire published his first major fashion story.
Exposed in 2008 at Rencontres d’Arles festival, France.
Paolo Roversi studio
First published in 2005, Studio features nearly two decades of Paolo Roversi’s hugely influential studio portraiture. Now released in an unlimited edition, Studio promises a closer look at this distinctive body of work, as striking as it is hauntingly familiar.
Within the confines of his Paris studio, Roversi photographs subjects in 8×10 Polaroid format, often allowing his images to fade before fixing them to their substrate. His long exposures at close range harness an aesthetic from the earliest days of studio photography, but with a renewed urgency that wavers somewhere between history and apparition.
Stripped of the usual accouterments of studio portraiture, Roversi’s subjects push back with a vulnerable intensity that reveals as much of the photographer as of the model. The images collected here function not only as a series of individual portraits, but also as a collective self-portrait of the artist and the place that stands at the center of his work.
Paolo Roversi editorial, Vogue Italia
Photography: Paolo Roversi
Styled by: Jacob K
Hair: Luke Hersheson
Makeup: Tom Pecheux
Manicurists: Typhanie Kersual and Hiro Takabayashi
Models: Amalie & Cecilie Moosgaard, Estella Boersma, Julie Hoomans, Odette Pavlova, Peyton Knight, Ross Abels, Yasmin Wijnaldum
Paolo Roversi camera & lightning technique
In the 1980s Roversi started using large format 8×10 Polaroids, as his main technique, which is also a big part of his signature style. The 8×10 large format camera brings a slowness to the photographic process, that intensifies the connection & the concentration between model & photographer. The special colors & contrast of the Polaroid film & the instant process, fits perfectly to his beautiful dark & moody images.
Roversi’s use of the large format Polaroid technique is a big part of his images & and the dreamy expression, but it’s important to know, that the mood, expressions etc is due to the man behind the camera.
When film stock ran out after Polaroid’s bankruptcy, it was time for a change.
At the time of writing, Paolo Roversi uses a Hasselblad V camera with a digital camera back.
His main light is daylight, HMI, tungsten & Mac-Lite flashlights.