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by Sebastian Arackal

Black-and-white portraits are an art in themselves. So it's all the more exciting when an unconventional photographer like Max Cardelli brings a breath of fresh air to the classic subject.


Mr. Cardelli, it's not easy to reach you.

Yes, I'm on the road a lot. I live in Milan, just got back from Paris, and I'm flying on again tomorrow for a fashion shoot in Norway - you can find incredible locations there, especially fascinating landscapes.

Fashion and beauty photography is your passion ...

In these areas I can realize my photographic vision the most. I also like the high aesthetic level. I wanted to fix the perfect moment with the help of photography from an early age, I got my first camera when I was eleven. I had great teachers who gave me enthusiasm for the job, but also love and respect for the art of photography. And, of course, the dedication you need to work as a photographer.

Does your Italian origin influence your visual language?

I don't think it matters for my style where I come from.

In your early years you left your homeland and tried your luck as a photo assistant in New York.

It was a hard, but also wonderful period in my life. In New York everything was like a discovery, I felt endless energy.

You later returned to Milan.

To be honest, Milan is a rather difficult place for fashion and beauty photographers. New York and Paris, those are the better cities for my work. That's where the models live.


Keyword models, how do you find the right one?

Choosing the model - that's perhaps the most important thing when preparing for a shoot. I take the time it takes for that. Sometimes it's quick, sometimes I look for the right girl for two weeks.

What do you look for in your search?

For me, character, expressiveness and a strong face are important. Hair and eye color, on the other hand, are less important. The model simply has to be professional, she has to know what she's doing in front of the camera. And of course be able to develop a feeling for what kind of picture I want to shoot.

You have a special eye for setting the scene for colored models. Two of your most expressive portraits feature Sudanese-born supermodel Alek Wek (the photos are on the second and sixth pages of the portfolio). You rarely see images like this; do models of color have a harder time in the business?

In Europe, probably so, here black models are not so much in demand. There are also relatively few really well-known colored models worldwide - Alek Wek belongs to this circle.

"Choosing the model is perhaps the most important thing before a shoot - I take a lot of time for that."


A lot of your work is in black and white, what do you like about the format?

It has to be said that clients today mostly want color. However, I now shoot about half of my work in black and white, and the other half in color. Black-and-white photos look more graphic, also more surreal.

What camera do you work with?

With a Hasselblad with a Phase-One back and 80-mm optics. Those are my preferred tools at the moment.

How do you choose the images that will be published later?

I usually already have a fixed image in my head. I then have that very clearly in mind during the shoot. Then when I see the final photo, I ask myself critically: Is this what I was looking for? Is it what I originally wanted? That's how I select the images.

You've also made your breakthrough internationally. Is there a recipe for success that you can share with us?

Success is hard to plan, there's a lot of fate involved. You should express your own view of the world in your pictures. Show everything that fascinates you. I am firmly convinced that one's own style, one's individual creativity, is deep within oneself and cannot be forced.

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