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French PLAYBOY interview with Carlo Pieroni

Carlo Pieroni reinvents the Pin-Up. This photographer tracks the eternal female and revisits the myth of the perfect girl on coated paper.

Botticelli, Fellini, why do the Italians know better than anyone on how to capture the essence of femininity?

Carlo Pieroni carries elegantly his forties. Quite normal for this Italian who has been working in the universe of advertising, beauty and fashion photography for more than 20 years. A few of his credits are the advertising campaigns for Renault, La Perla, Chupa Chups, and Motorola. But this father of three is chasing a secret goal: to capture the eternal female and her personification, the Pin-Up. Here is why this restless traveler shares his time between Tuscany, Paris and the United States, departing to all the continents looking for traces of Bettie Page, the most famous of the Pin-Ups.

How did you discover photography?

I started when I was a kid in school. I used to make a bit of money taking pictures that were commissioned by friends. After high school, I jumped head first intothe world of advertising and publicity where I could explore different genres of photography. It may seem rather odd when you look at my current work that I actually began with still-life photography!

How did you make the transition towards models?

I was shooting a beauty campaign in the Sahara desert with a lovely model that became my “Muse” and latermy wife. She portrayed a rose of the desert. From that moment, I decidedly said good-bye to still-life photography. I understood that photographing people and the subtleties of movement enabled me to better understand myself.

Why did you get interested in the Pin-Up?

For me the Pin-Up is the symbol of the “Joy of Life”. We might think that they are naive, but in reality they know very well the game of seduction. With the Pin-Up we rediscover the modernity of the feminine universe.

More precisely, Ibelieve that my interestfor the Pin-Up world goes back to my childhood. When I was a kidgrowing up in Florence, my father owned a movie theater. On Mondays they would have live variety shows along with striptease artists. Actually, I was not old enough to watch the show, but I always found a way to sneak in. I remember the strippers’ faces, they were always smiling and they would play with the men in the audience like a cat with a mouse.

Those early images obviously influenced me a great deal and I am quite sure that then and there I decided that the world of beauty would be my universe.

Were you influenced by a Pin-Up in particular?

Not really. Even though when I think about Pin-Ups, the name Bettie Page comes to mind. She really encompassed the transgressive yet positive dream girl. She was always smiling andglamorous. I dislike images that reduce women to just a body.

How did it all start?

I started making Pin-Up images in 1991, when I produced my first calendar for Riccardo Gay Model Agency in Italy.

I told Riccardo that I wanted to photograph his models ina dreamlike style. Pin-Ups are fantasy girls. From that moment, my fantasies have becomevery influentialin my work. I take notes of my dreams. That’s how most of my images are born and immediately Imake a sketch of the dream to remember it for the next shoot.

Do you strictly direct your shooting?

Not at all, even if I have a precise idea in my mind, I always discuss it with the girls. It’s a team job. I’m not just the boss. I need the stimulation that comes from a girl that understands my ideas. I specifically choose my models for their ability to be expressive and for their body language, but afterwards I let them drive the game. I follow their interpretation of my fantasies. It’s a game of seduction. The girls turn from being an object of desire into asubject of desire.

Which technique do you use?

Before the advent of computers, I airbrushed and painted over enlargements of my photos. Every image would then take me between seven to ten days to complete. Vargas and Elvgren also started their work from photographs. Today, with the help of computers, not only is the process much quicker but I can create any idea that I have in my mind. But please don’t call it retouching. This is not retouching. I paint. I elaborate. I transform the photographs into final images that I have initially envisioned in my mind.

Do you prefer to work in studio or on location?

Usually in studio, but it very much depends on the situation I want to create.

I prefer to work in a closed environment so that I can control and reproduce the ambiance that I’m looking for.

Do you play on nostalgia?

Absolutely not. I’m always looking positively towards the future.

What really astonishes me is that a lot of models tell me that I am the first photographer that has ever asked them to laugh in front of a camera!

The Pin-Up is timeless. I am influenced, however, by the elegance and grace of the women of the 1950s. The nuances of those eternal values are always present in my work.

In your opinion, why does the Pin-Up continue to fascinate men?

Because of their timeless nature. Because of their body language, the expressiveness in their eyes.Pin-Ups are flirtatious, seductive and fun. They are irresistible.

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