Touching Moments Inside The Studio
by Catalin CROITORU
A model in the fashion industry. And a highly rated photographer.
The two of them had met at a dinner and because of a divine principle. And ever since the model and the artist became a source of inspiration for each other, a “bouquet” of emotional moments shared between the two persons.
Francesca Camicia, an Italian model that lives in California, U.S.A., bonded with Andrea Marino, an Italian photographer living in California too; that happened in a split of a second, but what was next lasted for years. Lens Magazine brings the emotional and the amazing story of the two into its pages. You will make aquaintance with Francesca, a woman that was trapped until few years back into a male body, and with Andrea, the wizard that used a camera to make blooming the world around him.
Touching Moments Inside The Studio
– Between A Model and A Photographer –
Hello, Francesca! It is a pleasure to meet you! Please be so kind and introduce yourself for the readers of Lens Magazine.
I would like to introduce myself to the public. It is an honor to be featured in this magazine and to have the opportunity to share my story of life and my struggles and send a message to the world. I would like to start my story by saying thank you to Lens Magazine for sharing my story and giving me the opportunity to model for them. My name is Francesca Camicia, I am a British-Italian model. I am 22 years old and I will be 23 soon. I was born in Italy more precisely in Rome, and I grew up in Rome from an Italian dad and British mother. I have one brother and one sister. My brother is older than me and my sister is younger. My story is unique, special and complex because of my gender and my challenges in a society that hates diversity and doesn’t accept minorities. I went to high school in Rome and I graduated and then moved to London to start my bachelor degree in international relations and diplomacy for years. I studied at university in London and I was starting to feel that I had to make a change in my body because I always felt that I was born in the wrong body.
I began informing myself on how it would be possible to start my transition to becoming a woman even for my body not only for my soul. I searched and started the psychological tests for years to start my hormone replacement therapy and male blockers to start changing my shape. The changes were evident and my breast starting growing and I was starting to feel the way I always wanted to feel. My life was and has been very hard because of the difficulties that transgender women face such as discrimination, lack of equal rights and other elements. I continued to study and I was thinking that modeling was something I would have liked and while I was studying in London I was scouted by an agent in a boutique model agency. I started thinking that it would have been impossible to model or to be accepted the way I was in an agency because of the usual ideas of beauty. My model agent in London started believing in me and I was put on the agency website on both men and women section as a unisex model because of my androgynous look and beauty. I wanted to risk and try even though I knew I would have received a lot of hate and not acceptance.
I wanted to show myself that I was equal and show the public that I was a model and I was capable as anybody else. I wanted to show the world that to be a model you can be who you really are and that your uniqueness is your treasure, not something to hide. I started to feel empowered because I was starting to feel that my life had a meaning and that I existed and the fact that I was visible being the only transgender model was a revolutionary act and it would have helped even other people like me to feel proud and not ashamed of what they are. I went to various castings and catwalks and many times I was discriminated and I felt powerless but I never lost faith. I was appreciated too by many people at the same time but the market was very limited because of the clients’ standards ideas of beauty. I continued to model for my boutique model agency in London and I wanted to do more surgeries to change my body and become who I always wanted to be. I traveled to Thailand in Bangkok and Italy and started doing various surgeries to change my body because the hormones were not enough. The pain was infinite but I had to make it.
I had no choice. I had to accept myself and my condition. After years of hormones, I have undergone sex reassignment surgery to finally become who I was: a woman. I was already a woman but that step to me was essential to carry on and live freely and without chains. The stress and pain and courage was a lot but I made it in the end.
When I finished my bachelor degree in the United Kingdom I moved to the United States in California and I continued studying law. I am now studying for my master degree in law in San Diego, California. I have traveled all over the world. I love traveling and knowing and seeing other cultures. People should learn that we are not labels but people and that the person should be judged by his or her actions, not for her gender or religion or race. The fashion industry is still very conservative and not very trans-friendly and still don’t accept transgender models or other models who have a unique look.
I hope this will change. I hope with my work and story to share awareness and to teach people that even a transgender woman can be a model or can be whatever she wants.
I am proud of who I am and I allow nobody to stop my dreams even though I have a harder life.
I love fashion. I love art. Art allows me to express myself. Art helps me to escape from reality and fashion is a way of art.
I wanted my body to be like a painting.
I wanted to express myself completely.
My family has accepted and supported me always all through my life but many families all around the world don’t accept LGBTI children and this is very sad and I hope that one day every family understand that being gay or transgender is not a choice. Happiness is a human right. Freedom is a human right. Denying to accept your own child because of what he or she feels is not right. I was very lucky. It takes time and it takes information to end ignorance. Schools have to teach that bullying is not acceptable and they have to promote equality. Society has to learn the lesson that hate kills transgender and gay people every day. I didn’t do anything wrong.
I studied law because I was curious about the laws regarding LGBTI people and I wanted to make a change. I love diversity. I love uniqueness. My inspiration was all those models that brought a different type of beauty into the fashion industry. I think that people should understand that love has no gender. Many men, unfortunately, don’t accept to be seen in public with a transgender partner and this is because the culture has put to shame and has destroyed the image of transgender women promoting hate and showing always negative aspects when we are actually just women like every other woman. I am myself not a label. I am Francesca. I am a human.
I can love or be loved by who I want.
We don’t have to put people in boxes. We must not divide people and even if people are different from each other they should hate each other. I hope people love me for who I am and for my beauty. Healthcare for transgender women it is not a choice it is essential. Transgender women are stuck in a body that is not what they are. Healthcare should be free and accessible to all transgender women. We need change. I had to fight especially in Italy to change my documents and passports into a female and I was so stressed out because they let you go through a very hard and long procedure to change your gender on your ID. All my struggles have made me stronger.
Touching Moments Inside The Studio
– Between A Model and A Photographer –
Andrea Marino, Photographer
Thank you, Andrea, On the behalf of Lens Magazine readers, for giving us some of your precious time by accepting this interview!
You have a long career in this form of Art named photography. Please tell us about it
Andrea Marino: understood, early on that pretty much everything is an image, yes a photograph branded in our subconscious or straight up in our conscious life… hence
the tremendous power that images hold. It was possibly consequential to that awareness that an almost absurd need to understand why images are so important to humans, and how they shape up our life and why we do oblige to that, was born. And of all images, of all photography, of course, fashion images, fashion photography. Yes, above all I chose early on to use fashion photography as a mean to understand or try to understand all that. Above all others forms of communication, fashion goes straight to the core of the human experience. I read somewhere a long time ago that the difference between the Neanderthal and the Homo sapiens namely when we transitioned from sub-humans into humans it wasn’t that the experts, the archaeologist found something big something monumental, it was actually the opposite they found something very small. The experts, the archeologists find something very small… buttons and what appeared to be brooches. They were used to adorn the skins that the Neanderthal wore….. now upgrade into a human by it. Yes, it was a fashion choice, an idea that made us human. I’m sure they would have consecrated the moment with a selfie but there were no cameras around back then… Pity! The need to appear bigger better more beautiful more powerful, important… fashion in a few words, is what has intrigued me and keeps my interest going. I use photography, fashion photography like a discovery tool. That keeps it always fresh.
Lens Magazine: What do you feel when you are in a studio and you have your camera in your hands, ready to shot fashion or glamor?
A.M.: Lately I’m rarely in a Studio. I come back full circle, if you will, I went back to shoot outside. I started shooting outside early on in my career through the streets of Milan. Even when I was shooting for Italian Vogue I preferred to shoot fashion outside, that inside a studio. I would take models and crew to Sicily to shoot editorials there…. so much raw nature there. ones I spent almost two weeks shooting for Bazaar Uomo there. So much soo that the headquarters in Milan thought I had been kidnapped and feared for the worst, we were in such a remote location that couldn’t communicate for days. I can get lost outside… Nature, for better or worse, is everything. When possible I try to use daylight, sunlight, even for images that may need to have a studio setting. I don’t shoot glamor anyways and honestly since the big switch from analog to digital photography I feel less at ease when I shoot there’s so much post production to think about while you’re shooting, that it’s almost impossible to enjoy the moment, like I use to.
Lens Magazine: In the 90s you abandoned for a while the high standards photography and you have traded it for a “less fashionable side of the World”; what exactly it meant?
A.M.: It was at the beginning of 2000 really when I started to itch for something radically new…. The self-obsessed and self-proclaimed first world, “The West”, got a bit tight all at ones, I needed a break from it all, and traveled for 2 to 3 years straight, mostly through southeast Asia and North Africa. I wanted to learn, to understand, to observe something not familiar… what I discovered was that I felt so much closer, almost at home, in India that I thought possible, I am still trying to understand how that came about. To feel immediately at home in a foreign country not close to your culture it’s really an incredible thing to experience.
Lens Magazine: You have a special relationship with one of your models – Francesca Camicia. You both are Italians but you are living abroad, a thousand miles away from your native land. How you two crossed your paths?
A.M.: We met at a great dinner with great food, which is always a good thing, and we hit it off immediately. I could see so much of myself in her and I think she felt the same…. not just because we are Italians but because as an artist as a person that has questioned everything since the get go in order to create something, you’re attracted to people that have done and do the same, I love that in Francesca. I think she loves that I am that way too. I love that fearless way of seeing things that she has. To see the way things are and not see things the way they seem, take a lot of questioning; without it, you’ll always get someone else’s version of perception of the truth. You’ll be a recycled being. Questioning everything it’s our duty, artistically and personally. Accepting everything is they way it is told you without questioning the validity and the truth of it is, in my opinion, madness.
Lens Magazine: The main theme of Lens Magazine next issue is “Emotional Moments”. Did you two – you and Francesca – had such “emotional” moments?
A.M.: Yes we did… you have to, otherwise there’s no magic in the images there’s no energy, and you always want to project that energy that message to the observer, the viewer, you need to leave a trace of what it meant to shoot that image…. what it felt like. Francesca was transitioning “while we were shooting” in between photo shoots and I think it is obvious in the message, in the energy of the pictures the message…. what Francesca and I wanted to communicate is that ultimately there’s no separation, There’s no before and after, there’s no fragmentation. The energy is one there’s no duality, it’s a divine principle.
Lens Magazine: Franco Moschino, Anna Piaggi and Gianni Versace – just to name a few – are names with a significant importance in your career; when you look back now what emotional souvenirs come in your mind when you think of those names?
A.M.: Well, to call them, “emotional souvenirs” it feels a little reductive to me. They feel more like imprints to me if not full at times. When I think of Franco, grace under fire, comes to mind immediately, tremendous talent and a lot of humor too. Last time I saw Franco he was near the end, it was at the Triennale in Milano for a retrospective in his honor and although he knew the time was near he was graceful and a gentleman with everybody, uil the end Franco kept his sense of humor and love for everything and everyone. He sadly was one of the first high-profile victims of AIDS in Italy. A shocking premature departure for the most gentle and funny and giving and irreverent person I knew. He got me my first job in Fashion, assisting Fabrizio Ferri at Superstudio in Milan. What a brilliant man. I think of him often.
Gianni was the American dream personified. A humble beginning in Reggio Calabria all the way to Milano’s Palazzo Rizzoli. He bought the palazzo in two stages setting Milan society on fire, they hated him for the rest of his life because of it. You know right…. that people from the south in Italy are called Terroni, is like the N word in America, now imagine if you can…. this is 1970 Italy, that a Terrone went all the way, in a short span of time, from Reggio Calabria to conquer Milano extremely exclusive fashion society and replace an aging view of what the status quo was, the image of a perfectly and boringly dressed woman of course from Milan, with a new one that depicted an extremely outgoing and 1/2 naked glamorous lady, labeled a “whore” That was how it was described, the woman that he was trying to dress, from the many detractors. The success was instant. His clothes his image, unprecedented, like the enormous wealth that came with it…. and he wasn’t shy about flaunting. It is, like it or not, a tremendous accomplishment. I think he felt that people did not really appreciate the enormity of the achievement for that reason I also think that Gianni was not an easy man to get along with or an “instantly nice” guy for lack of a better word. There was always a tension around him. I remember that he complimented me ones though, on what I was wearing. It was after the end of a concert, backstage, his muse concert, Ornella Vanoni and he called me and complimented me, “Ciao, mi place cost hair a does! L’hai messo tu insieme?” “I Like what you’re wearing did you put it together” I had layers and layers of clothes…. and a pair of jeans that to say that they were torn was an understatement…. I was very nonchalant about it, I said thank you and went back to talk to my friend. I think he liked that. He liked it so much that the same style if not a replica of what I was wearing came out the following year on a spring/summer main collection, of all seasons. And because of it, I think, I was one of the very few to be allowed backstage with a camera after each of his fashion shows I shot… without getting yelled at and escorted out, like the few that tried. Oh… we also had a dear friend in common, hum yes, this thing definitely reminds me of a souvenir like sort of thing, if you will.