The Italian photographer, known for his politically-engaged shockvertising for Benneton, has been inviting his followers to get creative during lockdown.
What is there left to say about Oliviero Toscani? The Italian photographer has created some of fashion’s most recognisable images from two tenures at global brand Benetton, harnessing shock factor to carve out a singular visual identity. From a nun and priest locking lips to images of death row inmates, his work is not just visually striking but brought political issues into the public consciousness long before it was de rigeur for brands to do so.
His latest venture has been less glam but no less important: encouraging his social media followers to stay creative and document their mental state via self portraits. In an Instagram Live, during the first government-mandated lockdown in Italy, he encouraged viewers to capture this once-in-a-generation experience for posterity, concluding; “You have a historical responsibility! You are the only reporter of yourselves!”
With this challenge addressed to everyone, professional and amateur photographers alike, he received 4000 entries which were published in a daily online column for La Repubblica. The results? A diverse testament to the trying times we live in, as Oliviero puts it; “A different story is written on each face.”
More recently, Oliviero has upped the ante, setting followers a fresh photography challenge: to photograph a face mask on a flat surface. With entries exploring texture and tone, or ripping up the masks altogether, the resulting images are a testament to the creativity of Oliviero’s network of fans.
Check out some of our favourite self portraits via the gallery below. Read our interview with Oliviero, where he unpacks the art of controversy here.
18 February 2021