photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
i found the recent SEE KNOW EVIL (MADE TO MEASURE, 2018) documentary about the late ITALIAN fashion photographer DAVIDE SORRENTI to be quite touching. the film is obviously meant to be a RECLAMATION of his public image in the wake of the cultural backlash to the 1990s media phenomenon known as 'HEROIN CHIC' that his work was retroactively (and incorrectly) attributed.
SORRENTI had quite the back story. he suffered from a hereditary BLOOD DISORDER known as THALASSEMIA, which attacks the blood's production of hemoglobin and thus decreasing its ability to distribute oxygen throughout the body. this condition is life-threatening and does particular DAMAGE to several vital organs. SORRENTI spent his entire young life in PAIN, visiting hospitals for regular blood transfusions and sleeping hooked up to machines that added much needed oxygen to his system. THALASSEMIA is the type of condition that the patient diagnosed with it, is more than aware they are likely not going to live much pass the teens, if at all.
so in essence the life he led was one that was very much in the moment with few guardrails or time to waste being shy or indecisive. through his designer mother FRANCESCA and his model/photographer brother MARIO he was afforded access to the fashion industry of NEW YORK and carved out a niche as a street and fashion photographer in the INTIMATE and UNADORNED vein of LARRY CLARK or NAN GOLDIN. his work showcased models in CONTORTED poses with DOUR, MELANCHOLIC expressions, often draped in VIBRANT colors that were just slightly out of focus. the overall effect were AFFECTING photographs that projected a sense of internal PATHOS and portents of deep SUFFERING. it is hard not to read these VISCERAL images and see the connection between his own experience of the world and that of this ominous but SEDUCTIVE imagined reality. its almost like appreciating a CARAVAGGIO painting with the knowledge that for the artist those pictures of suffering martyrs and saints are projections of his own DOOMED sense of moral damnation.
the idea that his mother's well-intentioned efforts within the larger fashion community to address HEROIN usage in the wake of her son's passing led ironically to a mistaken national dialogue about glamorizing HEROIN in commercial advertising is TRAGIC. that national conversation in the media WHITEWASHED his talent, his work and his creativity. SORRENTI was only active over a three year period from 1994 through 1997 which also coincided with the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion coming from the northwest and a titanic shift away from marketing materials showcasing the female form as ample and athletic. the FASHION INDUSTRY through the rise models like KATE MOSS, JAIME KING and MILLA JOVOVICH in response displayed a more streetwise aesthetic that had more attitude and personality than what was showcased in the 1980s. in many ways we are still living in the marketing world of the 1990s in terms of visual aesthetics and SORRENTI was a part of that movement. its just UNFAIR that outside political agendas smeared his work.
SEE KNOW EVIL is a compelling documentary irrespective of one's interest in PHOTOGRAPHY or FASHION. its more about the ATTITUDE and INTENTION with which you live your life each and every day. definitely worth checking out.