Digital Issue 19: Interview – Chiara Bardelli-Nonino

Chiara Bardelli-Nonino, photographed by Luigi Calfa

Excerpt taken from Paper Journal Digital Issue 19, available to download now.

I remember at the beginning of the pandemic, Vogue Italia came out with a blank cover. It was a bold decision that clearly stated it was a time to pause, a request for visual silence. How did the decision inform your work throughout the year? 

Sadly, the pandemic has become our daily reality but back in early 2020, Italy was isolated and scared. The first lockdown was terrifying, so the blank page really mirrored the collective feeling of an entire nation. It’s like when Libération (14 November, 2013) printed a whole issue with blank spaces instead of photographs to mark how vital photojournalism is; that kind of visual silence, as you said, makes you understand how images are tremendously powerful. In a period like the one we’re experiencing now, you can’t be superficial when using photography. 

As before Covid-19, and even more so post-pandemic, the fashion photography world will have to navigate the difficult balance between fantasy and reality with the ability of a tightrope walker. Too much on one side, and you are out of touch and disrespectful, too much on the other and you produce a bland, dull image. It will be an interesting, transitional time.

I know you started your job as a photo editor in a very casual way, after finishing your philosophy studies. How did these two worlds you belong to, philosophy and visual culture, influence each other towards your current role?

While studying philosophy, I knew I loved photography but I didn’t really know what a photo editor was. Then, after a very random six months internship at Vogue Italia, I had the chance to interview for the job—mainly because of a misunderstanding on my MA dissertation which was about post-mortem photography and, I don’t know how, but Alessia Glaviano was told that it was on fashion photography­— probably because the Italian word for fashion is “moda” and it’s similar to “mortem”. So, the beginning of the interview was reeeeally awkward! What I mostly love about my job is how it actually connects these two worlds, as you dive deep into an artist’s oeuvre you understand the world through the artist’s eyes. Every time I try to understand an artist’s vision, I gain a new perspective and understanding of the world, however small and temporary it might be.

  • A selection of spreads from Paper Journal digital issue 19. Cover © Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., Vanessa and Diane, 2016

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