Raised on the outskirts of the empire, Thorimbert renewed in the '80s fashion photography
The "rapper of photography". This is how Toni Thorimbert was defined by Silvia Paoli, in contrast with the aristocrat Giovanni Gastel. Born in 1957, he defined an era by renewing the repertory of American photography and helping to the revitalization of art photography in the 80s, the years of the success of the made in Italy.
But where does this renewed look come from? From personal story, first. Thorimbert does not come, like many colleagues, from the "imperial center", but from the periphery. His favorite place is Pioltello, near Milan, where he grew up and spent his childhood. This is where he started, a little by chance, a little for his own choice, to take photographs. His favourite subjects in Children of Pioltello (1973) are peers: twelve year old boys with a cigarette in their mouth and hard eyes who remind of post-war neo-realist imagery.
From there to fashion the step is short. Fundamental, in 1984, is the report on Paninari, the mythical youth movement in vogue at that time. Contrary to innovative reports, such as Luna Park (1981) and Fourth Oggiaro (1976-77), the world of Paninari is reconstructed in a studio, illuminated ad hoc and with the aid of machinery. In addition to that, for the first time the artist's attention is not so drawn by ideology of the movement but by clothing which, more than faces, postures of the body, reveals that moral world.
For Thorimbert, it is a real breakthrough. When he emigrates to the United States in the 90s, collaborating with some magazines, he will just adapt that same look to the needs of new clients, settling the scenes in the streets, the reality. Changing the subject, does not change how to pose before the camera, or how to hold the cigarette. To him there is no difference between the overpaid model and the street boy from Pioltello. The revolution is complete: for the first time, he gives the audience the thrill of being the privileged observer of a periphery world.
And here is, then, the historical significance of the operation performed by Thorimbert. Contradicting the image in vogue at that time - aesthetically beautiful but aseptic, impersonal - he brings the attention of the viewer to wonder about the (self) representation of identity. Like many other colleagues of those years, he claims the role of author: with Thorimbert fashion ceases to be something purely commercial; it expresses the artist's personal world, his poetry, his personal world view.
It is no coincidence that Thorimbert experienced more of a concern to photograph a subject like luxury: for him, contrarily to the aristocratic Gastel, it is another world, away from his cultural background, and for this reason neutral, impersonal, unable to arouse emotions. For which, it can be told only with the filter of irony.
It is not, however, a permanent revolution. The one carried out by Thorimbert is the daughter of a unique moment in history, the 80s, which for the first time imposed the Italian style in the world. With the new millennium, again, everything will change. Due to changes in the market, American photography will lay down the law and the European one will follow the trend. Even the body of these works will remain in memory. As evidence and testimony of a different and more personal way to do fashion photography.