Updated: May 18

I have always felt close to Gia's story. As sad as it is, I can't help but look at her photos and feel some kind of connection.

Gia Carangi was one of the first openly gay supermodels, and she introduced a sultry, androgynous look that resonates on catwalks today. Her story is a cautionary tale about the dangerous mix of sudden fame and drugs set against a high-fashion background.

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Recommended book “Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel” by journalist Stephen Fried and “Born This Way” by Sacha Lanvin Baumann.

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Born in Philadelphia in 1960, Gia was a beautiful teenager who dreamed of David Bowie while working at the cashier of her father Joseph's sandwich shop. She acknowledged herself as gay and trying different drugs, she attempted to escape a difficult childhood. She was conscious of her beauty, intelligent, and passionate.

It was in the summer of 1978 that a local photographer and hairdresser, Maurice Tannenbaum, asked her to pose on the dance floor after spotting her at a local nightclub. Gia’s dark, tomboyish looks and perfect face were an ideal match for the fashion world which at the time was overrun with slim blondes.

Before she knew it, she was the talk of New York and she moved to Manhattan at the age of 18. At that time Gia signed with Wilhelmina Cooper, legendary fashion agent and owner of her own modelling agency, and for her a kind of mother figure.

Her natural flexibility in front of the camera made her a favourite with the top photographers, and fashion editors soon clicked onto the appeal of the new girl in town.

In 1979, in the space of five months, Gia appeared on the covers British Vogue, French Vogue, US Vogue and US Cosmopolitan, twice. Francesco Scavullo, the photographer of the Cosmopolitan covers, came into contact with that sensual and dark energy and became her mentor and her most passionate supporter.

Gia’s addiction was no secret among the fashion world, but for a while it was tolerated. Drug use wasn’t exactly unknown in their ‘party-hard’ world, after all, but her lifestyle was becoming increasingly risky. In 1980, at the peak of the popularity of "her" Gia, Wilhelmina died at the age of 40 of lung cancer and Gia fell into depression and increased her bond with heroin.

In November 1980, Carangi left Wilhelmina Models and signed with Ford Models, but she was dropped within weeks. By then, her career was in a steep decline.

In late 1981, although still struggling with drug abuse, Gia was determined to make a comeback in the fashion industry. Scavullo photographed her for the April 1982 cover of Cosmopolitan, her last cover appearance for an American magazine. Sean Byrnes, Scavullo's long-time assistant, later said, "... I could see the change in her beauty. There was an emptiness in her eyes."

During the winter of 1985, Gia was diagnosed with AIDS-related complex and she died of AIDS-related complications on November 18, 1986, becoming one of the first famous women to die of the disease. At the time of her death her mother was by her side. She was 26.

Gia’s legacy is enormous and diverse. She was one of the first so-called super-models, paving the way for generations of ‘unusual’ beauties, including Cindy Crawford, who was nicknamed ‘Baby Gia’.

By the late 1980s, her death helped raise awareness about how AIDS is spread, and from that day on the world has become more sympathetic to sufferers of AIDS, spurring fundraising efforts and government funding.





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Looking out the window these days I wish I was somewhere else. Perhaps it is a common condition for everyone to want summer in winter and viceversa. Don't get me wrong although I love summer, winter also has its charm. The autumn sunlight, the long walks wrapped in a warm coat but also knowing that you are safe while it rains incessantly outside. I believe, however, that this year my nostalgia derives more from not being able to go anywhere.

I can't help but think back to that beautiful photoshoot I did not long ago at Seven Sister Cliffs on the south coast of England.

For most of my life I have lived in the countryside and after moving to London, I have always felt the need to go looking for locations poised between land and sea. With this in mind, my two models and I drove to the dreamy white cliffs of Seven Sister.

I love driving with loud music to new places. When we got there, the girls and I couldn't believe our eyes: it was even better than the photos we had seen before.

I tried to make the models understand the importance of feeling in contact with nature, the autumn months offer us reflection and calm and I wanted to convey these emotions in my photos.

Historically, in countryside life, October was the budget month after the whole summer spent harvesting.

The nature around us is loaded with empty and silent space that welcomes a new life to come, something that is preparing a birth.

We should harmonize, as the ancients did, with these seasonal rhythms in order to better appreciate these inner states typical of autumn.

The human being needs this season to embrace introversion, the slowness of time, a certain silence in the air, an attention to the value of our time on earth.

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Born Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti on August 16, 1896 in Udine, Italy, she emigrates to the United States in 1913 to live with her father in San Francisco. Modotti becomes involved in acting in Los Angeles during the early 1920s and enters the circles of several artists including her future lover the photographer Edward Weston.

Almost all of Tina Modotti's life has been crossed by passions, animated by numerous lovers and intense relationships, but the one with Weston was certainly among the most important and indelible.

While continuing to hide their relationship from Weston's friends and wife, the two live together in Edward's studio where Tina is required to assist in the darkroom, purchase materials and keep books, and in return she was receiving photography.

In 1923, Modotti and Weston set out for Mexico City, establish a photography studio upon arriving. Thanks to the public exhibition organized by Weston, the two begin to be known in the city and to be invited to the parties of communist intellectuals and avant-garde artists, including Diego Rivera, a prominent Mexican painter and his fellow Mexican painter Xavier Guerrero.

While she continued to help Weston in the darkroom, Tina restarts her photography attempts by turning her attention to the panorama of the city seen from her bedroom window, and still life with elegant and allusively erotic flowers.

Although the two often worked side by side, Tina and Weston’s photographs of the same scenes or objects are remarkably different.

Weston later returned to his wife in California, Modotti stays in Mexico and becomes more involved in radical politics.She buys the long-awaited Graflex, a camera that allows freedom of action. She is finally able to document events such as the workers events on the occasion of the International Workers' Day celebrations, “Mexican Folkways”.

From this photo, it is clear the intimate connection of Tina with the moment she was capturing, she wasn’t only taking the photo, but she was part of the worker’s parade.

After Weston, Tina once again falls in love with the artist Xavier Guerrero, accentuating the political and ideological component of her photography.

After Xavier leaves for a course at the Lenin International School in Moscow, Julio Antonio Mella becomes her new life partner Julio Antonio Mella, a Cuban activist who was in Mexico to organize riots. Among her acquaintances to note Frida Khalo, fascinating artist and lover of Diego Rivera.

Mella is murdered and Tina takes some photos of her dead lover, proving her great courage and coldness towards the photographic act. After the suffering from the killing of Mella, Tina intensifies her work by publishing propaganda photographs, before being exiled in 1931. She stopped producing photographs after this time and in 1939 returned to Mexico under a false name.

On the night of January 5, 1942, Tina Modotti died of a heart attack in the taxi that was taking her home, after a dinner at the house of the architect Hannes Meyer. In her handbag was found a photograph of Julio Antonio Mella in his first Mexican period, a symbol of her extraordinary life dedicated to photography, love and her beloved Mexico.


F. Muzzarelli, Il corpo e l’azione, Atlante, Bologna 2007, Il corpo come prassi politica



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