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Atelier EXB : Paolo Roversi : Des oiseaux (On Birds)


For this fifteenth title in the Des oiseaux (On Birds) collection, the fashion photographer and portraitist Paolo Roversi invites falconry birds to freely take over his studio and produces an intriguing series where owls, hawks and falcons appear shrouded in saturated lights on large format Polaroids. . The minimalist approach to portraiture and the monochrome tones, which are the signature of the Italian photographer, allow these birds of prey to be seen in all their majesty. Atelier EXB sends us this interview.


You are known for being a fashion photographer, but also for having taken numerous portraits. How did you come to photograph these birds in your Parisian studio?

Birds have always fascinated me. This idea of ​​photographing them in my studio came to me thanks to Chiara Bardelli Nonino, the curator of my exhibition the art museum in the city of Ravenna. Whether it is a bird, a person, a vase, a flower, a landscape, for me photography is always a portrait, in the sense that I choose to isolate my subject to make it become, in a certain way, the center of the world. It’s a face-to-face encounter between my subject and me.


You declared in a book of interviews devoted to you that “each portrait is an encounter, an exchange, an intimate and reciprocal confession”. In this very particular case, what emerges?

It is above all an emotion, because the bird, too, can feel it with a beat of its wings, a shiver. It is undoubtedly, for him too, a surprise to see me looking at him with this impressive camera obscura. This emotion is a special moment in life that we share.


How did you choose these birds? And how many sessions have you completed in total?

They arrived one day with a falconer who asked me how I wanted them in my studio and I told him: free. They went and landed directly on my stool, and there it was! I photographed them like a model, like any other person, in a very simple way. And just one session was enough.


There has to be more improvisation, because these birds can be unpredictable…

But that’s what’s magnificent, is that they are free. Generally speaking, I am not a photographer who directs or gives instructions. Never. I always leave my subjects free to move.


With the Polaroid, there is always an element of chance in the processing, when the positive is separated from the negative, and you can see this on several pages of your book. Do you like these surprises?

It’s not that I like it, I love this part of the unknown in photography! A photo is never exactly how you imagine it. Sometimes you may be surprised, but you are never disappointed. There is always something interesting to learn from it.


What were you looking for in this shoot: a certain form of elegance? Fragility? A strength ?

It is always beauty that interests me and which is the driving force of my work. Beauty and its mystery, which these birds embody particularly well. And that fascinates me.


What do these bird photographs, taken in a studio, ultimately reveal to you?

Simply life. The beauty of life.


Paolo Roversi
Born in Ravenna in 1947, Paolo Roversi has lived and worked in Paris for more than fifty years. After starting as a photojournalist for the Huppert agency, he was quickly attracted to fashion photography, working in particular from his beginnings for magazines like Vogue, Depeche Mode and Marie Claire. Now his photographs are published in the most prestigious international magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, i-D, Vanity Fair, Interview… A great portraitist, he is also the author of numerous campaigns for Comme des Garçons, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino . Paolo Roversi has published several reference works, including Nudi (Éditions Stromboli, 1999), Studio (Steidl, 2006) or more recently Paolo Roversi: Studio Luce (Éditions Stromboli, 2020) and Poliform (Rizzoli, 2022).


Paolo Roversi : Des oiseaux (On Birds)
Atelier EXB
Texts Chiara Bardelli Nonino Guilhem Lesaffre
Two versions: French and English
Hardcover, 20.5 x 26 cm
88 pages
37 color photographs
ISBN FR: 978-2-36511-385-4
ISBN ENG: 978-2-36511-386-1
Price: €39 including tax


Limited edition
In box, numbered from 1 to 30, including the work Des oiseaux and a print, size: 20 x 25.5 cm

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