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Flowers Of My Life

Silvana Editoriale, 2016
Gian Paolo Barbieri

A project edited by Silvana Editoriale, with which Gian Paolo Barbieri reveals a chapter of his private sphere about his love story with Evar, three years of happiness interrupted by the accident in which the boy lost his life. Flower shots and portraits of Evar accompanied by the lyrics of Branislav Jankic on a journey that crosses life and memories.

“He is one of the greatest masters of the fashion photography. Now in a book of images and poems recounting the most intense joy of his life. And the dramatic phone call that took it away from him.”

You didn’t call me last night / tired I went to bed with the telephone in my hand. /It is so beautiful to see you laugh and dance before you run in the water. /And then you lay down next to me with your wet hair caressing my back. /You liked such a life and I wanted to give it to you and build a house by the sea for you. /It misses only the roof and then it will be completed, only the roof. /The telephone rang with an unpleasant sound. /Once, twice, three times. / Then it stopped.

When the phone rings, Gian Paolo Barbieri, Milanese, class 1938, one of the great masters of fashion photography, is at the Seychelles, Mahé Island. “I had a small house, and when I figured that Evar loved the sea, I thought to build a bigger one, where we could be together. There was a beach flap, I fell in love and decided to build it there. So that summer I was at the Seychelles to follow the construction, I got up at six to open the yard. Evar would have reached me in August. At night we always had a phone date, but tonight the phone call did not arrive. It arrived the next day while I was at home for lunch. A voice said: Have you heard the news? Evar is dead. At that moment, I lost my voice.”

Evar Locatelli, 21 years old, from Paladina, Bergamo. In the book “Flowers of my life” that Barbieri has published (Sunday February 28th will be introduced to Milan, in his studio, with a performance) there is a small newspaper clipping: “Bergamo. Young biker crushed by two cars died last night in the intersection between Via Locatelli and Viale Italia in Almè, in the province of Bergamo. Victim of the accident is Evar Locatelli.” The clipping is not dated, but the year is 1991.

For twenty-five years Barbieri has never made word of this story. Few people knew about their bond, “I have always prevented to Evar to speak about it, I wanted to protect him: people are bad, stupid, they could ruin his the career for such a thing. We got to know each other thanks to his portfolio. We had thirty years difference. When his mother used to phone I would reply from the top floor, where I had my bedroom, I always said: please hold on line, I’ll call him, while Evar was there, by my side. I wanted nobody to know. Perhaps I would have behaved differently today it all seems easier nowadays. But maybe it is just an illusion. Either you are someone, and therefore you are unassailable, or you risk being judged.”

Twenty-five years later

I look for your green eyes in the dark. /We are playing hide-and-seek. /1,2,3, go! /Where are you? /1,2,3 go! I’m looking for you… 25 years have passed. /You are nearby, I hear you laugh / feel your breath on the neck. /1,2,3. I turn around. I see you! “It has been him to convince me to publish this book. Barbieri points out to Branislav Jankic, the young Serbian assistant, author of the poetry of the volume. I was hesitant; it is such a private project. In the end I have surrendered to the violence.” Memories are the only possible reimbursement for what has been taken from us. But memories need care, silence and time to reestablish connections. “Memory are everything, they are the source of every new idea: nothing can come out if it has not been already in the head. Some people engage in dialogue with the people that they have lost, I have always had Evar in my life: I have a portrait of him in my house and in front of it I lay a new flower every day. We have lived three marvelous years without darkness. I have saved and treasured everything, also the childish and deep notes he used, to write to me. Love is careless of laws, contracts and of ceremonies in front of a priest. Love demands only to be followed.”

“Flowers of My Life” creates a dialogue between the private photos which Barbieri took of Evar Locatelli, beautiful as a Greek god, creating still life of flowers << which I have always photographed thinking of him and to deliver something interesting for my job. Flowers are very photogenic, but difficult. I steal their soul, trying to make them look more beautiful than they already are. The banana tree flower for example>> Barbieri, the celebrated photographer which legendary director of Vogue America Diana Vreeland did not succeed in dragging him to         New York by offering him a nine months contract; that same photographer that portrayed Monica Bellucci, Audrey Hepburn and many others; the colleague of Avedon, whom collected his photos and wanted to know him out of respect for his work. With the obstinacy of a botanist now engages in an improvised anatomical lesson of a banana flower, its rigorous esthetics, its short life frail petals and that time when he reattached them to the bulb using pins in order to succeed in the shot he needed.

– Daniela Monti (Corriere della Sera)