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The story of Valentina Socci, a well-established fashion photographer, who left her beloved city of Milan, Italy, to devote herself to a successful career in Hollywood, reminds of a beautiful modern tale. Over the last few years, she has achieved very good results and all of her efforts have been rewarded.
Valentina Socci moved to Milan at the age of 18 and, after paying her dues with courage and passion, the opportunity to work with some fashion magazines presented itself, leading to the fortunate encounter with her professional and personal mentor photographer Giovanni Gastel.
Since then, she has traveled the world in search for new adventures and challenging experiences, and eventually settled in Los Angeles, where she has become a reference for many celebrities, captured by her lens.
From Milan to Hollywood, how did your life change?
I arrived in Milan at a very young age, bringing with me just my analog Zeiss camera, very little money, and a big desire to learn. Everything I knew about photography came from a book that my father had given to me. This is how my dream has begun: I have worked as an assistant in a photographic studio for ten years, then I was hired by White Magazine’s director Rita Rabassi and learned to manage all aspects of a photo session, from makeup to clothing and location. From being an assistant, I became a fashion photographer, now dealing with ruthless competition in Milan. But the truth is that main focus has always been portraiture, taking pictures of people and getting to know them, analyzing their features and understanding under what light their faces look more authentic and natural. So I eventually abandoned the world of fashion and started to experiment with other subjects, without any clear ideas about the future.
How did your end up collaborating with famed fashion photographer Giovanni Gastel?
It happened by chance! My friend Stefano Canzio, a great filmmaker, asked me to work on a backstage photo shoot in Guadalupe for a popular fashion brand. Only later I found out that main photographer was Giovanni Gastel. I had never met him before, but I knew and loved all of his books. The photos I took on that occasion were then published in a catalog along with his, and this made me feel more self-confident and ready to stand on my own two feet.
What did persuade you to move to the West Coast? And how do you like L.A.?
I’ve always traveled a lot and lived in different places, from London to Palma de Mallorca, from Santo Domingo to Barcelona. Yet I had never really felt like at home. With L.A. it was love at first sight, and I settled here one year and a half ago, after obtaining an O-1 visa. What do I like the most about this city? The young population, the American dream, and the magic light that makes L.A. glow.
Did California and L.A. play a role in your search for a personal aesthetic sense and artistic style?
My artistic and aesthetic sensibility is mainly linked to Italian fashion, and so very distant from the American taste that doesn’t have its roots in history. In my daily search for new inspirations, collaborating with other artists such as actors, filmmakers and writers has helped me a lot.
What does it mean to be Italian in L.A.?
The Italian taste, art, and cuisine are appreciated and welcomed all over the world. Nevertheless, Italians in L.A. must be ready to start from scratch and to work hard. I won’t deny that I went through hard times, but they actually pushed me to carry on with even more determination! Here in L.A. I’ve had some extraordinary career opportunities, which would have been impossible in Italy. Working as a photographer of celebrities, and no longer in the fashion world, I have fulfilled my dream.
Nowadays the social media easily allow posting pictures taken with our smartphones. What is your opinion on artistic and professional photography?
This is quite a topical debate. Anybody can take a nice picture with a smartphone, yet being a professional photographer is different. We see lots of images posted on the social media, but how many of them do we actually remember? I’ve probably seen 100 today but can’t remember any. On the contrary, I do remember all of Richard Avedon’s pictures, Helmut Newton’s women, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s portraits, and Ansel Adams’ amazing landscapes. Professional photography needs time and dedication, and most certainly it doesn’t use cellphones.
Who’s the model that most impressed you and whom you would like to portray?
Janice Dickinson is the one who impressed me the most, when she unexpectedly posed naked in front of the cameras and me during a reality show. There are many artists I’d like to photograph but if I must pick one now, I’d say Sophia Loren, a strong woman who I’ve always admired and respected.
Are you currently working on any future projects?
I don’t like to make plans for the future but rather let life surprise me.