INTERVIEW BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
STORY BY JESSICA YOUNG
Few young photographers know the photography world as well as Adrianna Glaviano does. She quite literally grew up in the studio living with her family in a loft above the famous Pier 59 Studios while her father, 1980’s legend Marco Glaviano, ran the place. Her mother being a top model, Adrianna absorbed an all-round understanding of the industry. Pier 59 was the studio in those days, and Adrianna was fortunate enough to witness and/or assist on shoots with every major photographer and celebrity of the era, including photographer superstars like Richard Avedon, David LaChapelle, Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier, and Mario Testino.
Despite all the enviable access to such a glamorous scene, Adrianna remains remarkably down-to-earth and unaffected. Imagista spoke with her via Skype while she was preparing dinner for friends at the studio she and her father share in Milan, Italy…
Imagista: How did the shoot with Costume National come about? And how much freedom did they allow you?
Adrianna Glaviano: The creative director of Costume National saw some images that I’d shot with a friend for fun and really liked them, so they gave me the green light to shoot.
Costume National asked me and my best friend, Dimitra, to take care of everything. They even wanted Dimitra to be the model. She’s a beautiful girl, but she’s not a model. In fact, she’s very shy. Nonetheless she agreed. So, Dimitra and I decided together what clothes we’d shoot. Then we hired a driver and the two of us just drove around Milan at night. We dressed her and shot the story.
I love working that way. It’s much more comfortable for me than having a bunch of people around. It was one of the best jobs that I’ve done because Dimitra and I share a very similar point of view, but she’d also offer me a different perspective. We also had good direction from Valentina whom Costume National had hired to do the creative direction. She gave us a lot of good references and inspiring suggestions. Now I work with her all the time. We’ve become really close friends too. So that job opened up a lot of opportunities for me.
Imagista: What does “Galena” mean?
AG: The art director came up with that name. I believe it refers to a type of stone.
Imagista: Having grown up in the photography world it’s not at all new to you, but when did you start taking pictures professionally?
AG: I’ve been shooting for about a year and half now. Growing up surrounded by photography and the fashion world, I guess I always knew it would be a significant part of my life. Even when I was four years old I would tell everyone that I wanted to be an artist, so my dad made me these business cards that had my name and occupation — “artist” — on them. I would hand them out to all his friends. Then when I was nine years old I decided that I wanted to become a professional animal portrait photographer.
My dad was always buying me cameras when we were living at Pier 59 Studios. He bought me a reflex camera when I was fourteen and I started taking photos everywhere I went. Then I’d constantly be in the dark room printing even at that age.
My mom and dad have both been really supportive, my dad in particular. He would introduce me to everyone in the business and hire me as an assistant on his jobs. He placed a lot of responsibility on me and trusted me even while I was still in high school.
Imagista: How old were you when Pier 59 first opened? And what do you recall from those days?
AG: If I remember correctly Pier 59 opened when I was around six or seven years old. I was living with my mom in New Jersey during the week and then with my dad on weekends. I was always hanging out in the equipment room and I remember I had roller blades and would skate around the place pushing equipment carts into the studios because the floors were so smooth. It was like an adventure for me, a very fun time in my life. I remember all the celebrity shoots with people like David LaChapelle. I would get excited because Ricky Martin or N’Sync would be there having their pictures taken. And seeing Richard Avedon was also pretty cool.
Imagista: Having been around so many photographic legends as you grew up, who would you cite as the strongest influence on your work?
AG: It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exact influences, especially now with the internet, where I look at so much photography. So it’s really the web that has the biggest influence on me. I’m constantly looking at images online. So it’s not so much a single individual who influences me.
I also remember being in high school and seeing the book from Adrien Brody’s mother, Sylvia Plachy. She’s Hungarian. Sylvia is the type of photographer who shoots with all these different cameras and captures her life creating a visual diary. It was so cool to me that she was sculpting a view of what she was living. When I saw that for the first time it really inspired me to also want to take pictures all the time as a kind of diary.
Right now I’m exploring different types of photography. I’m shooting everything from food to models to architecture. That way I don’t get bored. But I think my favorite thing at the moment is taking pictures of spaces, such as peoples’ homes.
Imagista: What kind of cameras do you shoot on now?
AG: I shoot mostly film; rarely digital. I spend all my money on film and developing.
Imagista: You’ve come of age during the transition from film to digital. So why film?
AG: I started with film, later my dad bought me a digital camera and I worked a lot with it for a while; but I switched back to film about four years ago. I just like the way film looks and feels. I know you can make digital look like film if you have good post production, but I prefer the process and feel of film. It also makes it more precious and thoughtful. I don’t take nearly as many images if I’m shooting film.
Imagista: What do you do when you’re not working?
AG: I’m working on a lot of projects. I’m doing a personal project with my best friend which will probably go on for about a year. I also paint and draw. And I travel a lot.
Imagista: How important a role do your friends and family play in your creative life?
AG: My friends and family play an extremely important role in my work life. My best friend and I work together all the time, we’ve worked together on almost all my professional and personal projects so far. I work a lot with my friends. My friends are doing all kinds of things, for example I went to Athens recently because my friend is starting a company that dries and exports herbs from Greece. It’s beautifully presented in these lovely little packages. She hired us to go there and take pictures of the herbs, so we created all these collages.
Imagista: You could have lived either in Milan or New York. So why did you decide to live in Italy?
AG: There are so many reasons I chose to live in Milan over New York. For one thing the time that I spend with my father is so precious, because I never lived with him full-time growing up. I now live with him in Milan, where we have our own studio and all these cameras and equipment. Also my two sisters live here.
I really like Milan a lot. I mean it is not my favorite city; New York is much fuller I guess, but I like Europe. Eventually I’d like to live in Paris too, for a little while anyway.
I really like to move around. I don’t like to stay in one place for too long. It’s so easy to move around in Europe, I can escape anywhere for a weekend or short trip. That’s a big thing for me. I take a lot more pictures when I move around.
Compared to New York City there aren’t as many people here, so you’re not fighting as much to get people to notice you. It’s much easier to request a meeting here and actually get one, whereas in New York it’s much more difficult. In Milan there are a lot fewer photographers in general, let alone young photographers. so people notice you more. And if they know your name it’s even easier. You’re not always on a waiting list of fifty people like you are in New York.
Recently I started working for this magazine called Toilet Paper Magazine; it’s been an amazing experience that’s led to other opportunities as well. It was quite easy to become involved with this magazine, whereas if it were in New York it probably would have been a lot more difficult.
Imagista: So, lastly, tell me a little more about your dad. He’s a legendary 80’s photographer, who in many ways exemplified the era. His work has such a strong point of view. You are obviously really close and yet your images are so different from his. Can you speak about your differences a little in regards to your respective photographic styles? Do you feel there are any similarities or is it just the shared love for photography that you have in common?
AG: It’s funny that you ask that because I recently found all these boxes of photos, together with his diaries from when he was younger and he was taking a lot of pictures of his life at that time, which he doesn’t really do that anymore. When he shoots he shoots and he’s not really documenting what’s around him at all. But now, after living with me and seeing me do it, he’s become a bit more inspired to shoot that way. Sometimes when we’re on trip he’ll take a picture of a view or something in the environment like a tree. And he’s like “Look! I took a picture that looks like one you’d take!” He always says that I’m going to be a better photographer than he is.
We argue a lot about digital versus film. He likes to work with Photoshop a lot now. I really like Photoshop and respect it, but it definitely has its limitations. He thinks I’m crazy because of the film thing, but I respect him so much and love his work. I mean that’s why I’m doing this.
And as far as similarities or differences, I don’t really see it. Maybe people on the outside can, but I’m too close. For example, I really like shooting pictures of women, but I’m also really shy to the point where I’m not as good at directing or asking people to do things as my dad is. I don’t think I could ever make women look as good as he makes them look. But I do really love to shoot models, so I probably got that from him. So I’d like to try and do something like him, even just for the fun of it.