by Lisha Ojun
Like his fashion shoots, Italian photographer Max Cardelli is in perpetual motion. The 39 year old jets between Paris, Milan and New York, fronting campaigns for major fashion houses at every stop. Prada, Lancôme, and Missoni are but a few of the big names he has worked for. In between, Max brings his impeccable timing and artistic direction to publications like French Elle, Italian Marie Claire, and Wallpaper. For all the glamour he exudes, Max is really a down-to-earth guy with strong work ethics and and eye for perfection. This month, Ish catches the jet-setter in transit.
Someone once said "Fashion is like a fickle mistress; if you do not devote yourself exclusively to her she will leave you and you will be doomed to failure". How long have you devoted yourself to this mistress and have you ever been bored by her?
I started taking my first photos when I was 12, after someone gave me my first 35mm. Since then I have always done photography, and I have never been tired of it. Getting involved in fashion obviously came later, and I must say that it was love at first sight. I think my passion for fashion assembles a series of pleasures which make it perfect for me: a love for portraits in general. a taste for women's expressive gestures, the possibility of inventing and realizing stories, the search for figurative beauty. But a powerful love for any kind of photography, not just specialized, remains at the bottom of all that and fuels my need to shoot different kinds of pictures according to my personal tastes.
How did you pick up photography?
I began working in a small photo printing lab when I was 13. I worked a couple of hours after school every day and during the summer holidays. It was there I learned how to print the photos I took, and it was there I caught the photography fever.
Describe your style in a sentence.
I adore movement and graphics: that is what I try to put in my photos, in addition to my personal concept of beauty: which must never be too showy.
What was the first camera you owned?
A 35mm Olympus.
What equipment do you use now?
It varies, from the 6x7cm format to 10x12 up to 20x25. But I tend to prefer working with large format.
Is there much difference between shooting magazine covers and advertisement campaigns?
Usually I have enough freedom: clients choose me for what I do, so there is no great difference.
How much artistic control do you have over what you shoot and how your image is being used?
Obviously you have got the most liberty in a magazine fashion shoot where the fashion editor and the photographer combination is the basis for a job well done.
There is so much emotion and spirit in your models, even when they are not moving. How do you bring these out in your subjects? Do you joke around and play the clown like some photographers do?
The way I work is fundamentally based on my own concentration and that of my whole team and the model. Movements are controlled down to the smallest detail, and hardly anything is left to chance. Usually, my photos are created in my head after I have met the model chosen for the shoot and observed the way she was and how she handled her body. The interaction between us is usually what creates the mental images.
You have shot quite a few celebrities. Who, in your opinion, is the most memorable?
Maggie Cheung. She is an incredible person, different from all the other celebrities I have met. She is beyond the patterns and problems typical of successful people. She has a great personality and also has a big heart and the she relates to others with innate simplicity. When you meet her, it is as if you have always known her. Now she is a dear friend of mine.
We adore Maggie Cheung in Asia. What was it like working with her?
She is very professional and polite with everyone. She transmits a marvelous energy to all the people who work with her, and that makes her special.
Which is the most important ingredient for a great photo shoot? a) concept b) model c) lighting d) your mood
They have established that during a shoot fashion photographer has to keep track of more than 500 variables needed to create the photo. And all of that has to be interpreted by the y photographer along with a good dose of his instincts. That is why it is important to let yourself go and believe in the direction you've taken.
Do you have a muse?
Every time I choose a photo model, I always look for that something special and unique that every woman has inside her. You just have to look for it uncover it. Obviously you do notalways succeed; but when you do, it makes this work magical, and that particular model becomes irreplaceable.
What is it like to be surrounded by beautiful women everyday? Does your partner ever get jealous?
Luckily, my wife is in the same business, so she knows all the work problems a fashion photographer has. Aside from the fact that this makes everything casier, we are still as much in love as the first day we met.
Would you ever go into nature or architectural photography?
Tadore faces and the various forms of the body: they are essential for my photography.
Where are you based now and are you thinking of moving soon?
I live in Milan, and I am on the go all the time in Milan, Paris, and New York.
On a final note, who would you would most like to photograph?
Since I was a kid. I have been bewitched by an Italian actress, Monica Vitti. It would be interesting to do a portrait of her.