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During my teens, I developed an appreciation of photography and started collecting coffee table books—one of the first that I bought was entitled A Private View by a photographer named Sante D’Orazio.

But I wasn’t drawn to Sante’s book solely because it was filled with beautiful, globally recognizable people. After all he had photographed the likes of Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Axl Rose, Helena Christensen, Versace, Pam Anderson, Linda Evangelista, Stephanie Seymour, and Diane Kruger just to name a few.

Rather, I was moved by the simplicity of his sublime photographs. Each one sucked out more oxygen from my room than the next. Each one arrested me—each one got to me.

Why? They exuded a certain intimacy—a tangible connection—between the photographer and the subject that literally felt like I had been granted a private view of their union.

Years later, when I was fortunate enough to become personal friends with Sante, it became clear to me how he had the ability to extract the X-factor, as well as the sex factor, from all of his subjects.

He possesses it himself.

Sante began his career in 1981 with Italian Vogue, and later Andy Warhol’s Interview. With his signature style defined by an alluring combination of sex and celebrity, he was soon working for the world’s leading fashion magazines and commercial clients. He described “the glamorous life” as a world populated by beautiful supermodels, rock stars and Hollywood actors.

Through D’Orazio’s lens, modern celebrities became mythological beings, reflecting the values of our idol-obsessed times: eternal youth, naked beauty, and rock’n’roll.

But while his deliberately sexually charged images of supermodels during the 1980s and 1990s made him one of the pioneers of that era, his more primal interest was in anatomy—something at the core of his career.

“Fashion was never my forte,” Sante once said, “I was interested in beauty… and nudity.”

Sante’s visual acumen has also crossed the borders into music and film. He directed his first music video in 1994 for Guns n’ Roses which reached #1 on MTV’s most requested list and has since directed many more music videos and commercials.

Indeed, Brooklyn-born, Italian-American Sante D’Orazio is an artist, first and foremost. He studied painting and fine arts before crossing over to a successful photography career, which has now spanned over thirty years. Celebrated in the fashion and advertising worlds, D’Orazio’s trajectory has come full circle as he now turns his focus to conceptual art.

“I’ve always had a strong sense of the abstract,” Sante told me. “And now I’ve managed to find a language that is completely my own—through fine art.

The curator Neville Wakefield invited D’Orazio and other heavyweight artists, including Richard Prince and Larry Clark, to participate in Destricted, a short film that represented their views on sex and pornography. “I had loads of unpublished naughty photographs,” D’Orazio told Imagista. “I scratched out the faces and private parts and had them bouncing around in moving abstract paintings,” he explains of his decision to blend film, photography, and painting for the project. “People don’t look at photographs,” Sante said. “People look at people. By abstracting the original images, I was forcing them to look at the photographs, which had a spirit of their own.”

Over the years, his works have been exhibited widely in museums and galleries internationally. And he is highly respected amongst his peers. He produced a tongue-in-cheek series of photographs entitled ‘High Priests of Modern Art’ featuring twenty artists, including Ed Ruscha, Damien Hirst and Maurizio Catellan, all of whom are his close friends.

As for his personal art collection—it is truly stunning. The pieces, a combination of his own works and those of his friends and influencers, are in odd harmony together.

“A lot of collectors buy art that represents money and power,” he told us. “But it doesn’t represent them. I find myself in the images I collect and the personal relationship I have with the artist. I see each piece as a self-portrait, which is what collecting is about.”

In March of this year, Christie’s New York held a major sale of his work. The show was both a retrospective and a taste of things to come, due in part to the way in which D’Orazio juxtaposed his iconic works with his newer pieces. What resulted was a bold diversion into the realm of the abstract that will give Sante D’Orazio’s on-going career something he has been giving us for decades: a new dimension, and another new way of seeing ourselves.


Photographer: Sante D’Orazio
Writer: Petrina Khashoggi
Contributing Editor: Jeffrey Jah

Editor (text): Thane Boulton
Photo Editor: Jesse Dreyfus