Talking jazz, ‘Supermodels’ with fashion photog Marco Glaviano

Brian_Baker_columnAlways save the best for last.

That’s not particularly my motto, but in this instance — covering big-name fashion photographers visiting the Izzy Gallery in Yorkville — it’s applicable.

I’ve spoken with Terry O’Neill and Ellen von Unwerth at their Yorkville installations, and have kept my eye on other talent to have had their work on display here, courtesy Forest Hill brothers Izzy and Damir Sulejmani. But the real treat for me was a recent chat with Marco Glaviano, a dynamic photographer who has played a massive role in the fashion industry, including launching the careers of many a supermodel.

He was in Toronto for the launch of his June 4–27 exhibition, The Supermodels. With him were Canadian supermodel Yasmin Warsame, who emceed the event, and up-and-coming model Shennai Saunders.

During his career, Glaviano has shot the likes of Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, Angie Everhart and Paulina Porizkova.

Seated in a black leather chair, with a huge nude portrait of Everhart behind us, I ask him of his accomplishments, including being the first photographer — in 1982 — to publish digital photographs.

Working for photo giants Fuji and Kodak at the time the technology became available, he said he was “starting to push for it right away,” and ended up being fired by Kodak when he insisted “film was finished.”

“I told them film was finished and they had a heart attack,” he says, with a laugh.

We muse about supermodel Seymour’s fire, and he admits he first started shooting her when she was 15. He murmurs candidly about her undying beauty now, and then I ask him about a particular photo of Everhart that sticks in my mind.

It’s 1996, and Glaviano is in South Africa shooting for Sports Illustrated. The photo in question is Everhart reclining on an elephant’s trunk. I ask of the statue, and Glaviano chuckles.

Shawu, as the elephant was known, was in the lobby of the hotel where they were staying: The Palace of the Lost City in Sun City.

“It was beautiful,” he recalls. “They told me it was the most famous elephant in Africa — the biggest bull, so when he died they made a bronze cast of him.”

Aside from the models and fashion photography, Glaviano’s passion is music. Specifically, jazz.

He lights up like a flash when I mention his portraits of musicians such as B.B. King, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins.

“Those are my favourite,” he tells me. “I prefer that to anything that I’ve done.”

A jazz musician himself, he counted those musicians as friends, and would take their pictures when they visited him in his studio.

Glaviano’s ties to the Toronto jazz community run deep. He was acquainted with the late Jim Galloway, a festival organizer both here and in Montreal. In addition, when he was 7 his uncle gave him his first jazz LP: one by Oscar Peterson.

“I fell in love,” he says.

He also shares that fondness for our city, which he says reminds him of “Switzerland, with a little bit of America: a mix.”

“It’s so clean,” he says, a smile curling from under his salt and pepper moustache. “It looks like an American city, but it’s not chaos.”