A veritable Eden for the ancient world's equivalent of the LGBT community and setting for the men's Cruise 2018 collection book, writer Jacopo Bedussi explores Villa Adriana and speaks with the book’s photographer Elaine Constantine.
Built by Emperor Adriano in 2nd century A.D.—the Roman emperor famous for his peaceful reign and championing the arts and philosophy—the villa was a haven of classical Greek architecture, gardens, pools and columns that now form elegant ruins.
In Elaine Constantine's color-saturated images, the villa is the backdrop for young men gazing into the lens with nonchalant defiance dressed in Alessandro Michele's Cruise 2018 collection.
The photographs show them in portraits crowned with golden laurel wreaths, while others are captured posing with sheep, rabbits or geese, domesticated extras that take on a metaphysical air. The portfolio of images are published in a book available at the new Gucci Garden gallery and store in Florence. A tribute to open-minded, enchanted youth, a favorite subject of the photographer the images reference the character of Antinous, a young Greek lover of the Emperor who met a tragic end and was deified. A section of the villa was dedicated to him, becoming a place of worship known as Atinoeion. The setting is therefore transformed a protagonist, a monument to pure love, overflowing with the tragic, fragile beauty that only adolescence can interpret.
Known for her spirited portraits of British youth that brim with dynamism and an offbeat attitude, Elaine Constantine answers some questions about her work.
You are known for your colorful spirited imagery of adolescents—what do you find fascinating about this subject?
As we grow older we find it ever more difficult to abandon ourselves to the pleasures of a moment - life intervenes and we struggle to be spontaneous. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of capturing that moment. Perhaps we all feel that more keenly as we get older?
How do you get spontaneity in your shots?
It’s a subtle combination of casting, direction and luck. Most of it is in the casting - over the years I have developed strategies that help to weed out anyone too self-conscious or reserved. Establishing a kind and collaborative atmosphere on set is also important, treating the models as individuals who can bring something to the creation and having some fun with them.
What is the inspiration behind the images in this lookbook?
The inspiration was really Villa Adriana and the contrast between the muted grandeur of these ancient ruins and the bold colours and designs of the collection. Villa Adriana, in many ways looks like a classic fashion setting but I wanted to subvert things by having the models appear as though they were casually hanging out on their own street corner.
Regarding the celebration of youth, Oscar Wilde wrote in the Picture of Dorian Gray, “in art as in politics les grand-pères ont toujours tort” - do you believe this to be true and why?
No I don’t agree - things are of course far more complex than that. I’d say youth can only ever stand on the shoulders of grands-pères… and grandes-mères.