Toni Thorimbert started his professional career taking portraits. He's terribly good at that.
What is it that makes him such a talented portrait photographer?
After reading Paolo Pietroni's article on Thorimbert one might have a few more clues to discover the key to his talent. His angelic nature (as Pietroni puts it) enables him to establish a very special relation with his subjects. This is what he himself writes about one of his shooting sessions:

I watch her from the shelter of my shadow zone: perfectly groomed and dressed, the model stands there alone, concentrated,there where all lights converge: what is she thinking of? About her faraway home, perhaps, and home is not just a place, but it's one's identity, out of this make-up, out of this theatre. "It's time to do this photo", I think "...before it gets spoiled... Into the light, I approach her, I'm holding my camera; I just barely touch her shoulder, as if to adjust her dress, while I catch her eyes with my gaze.
"Beautiful" I tell her, and I mean it, I believe it.
"Beautiful." I whisper it to the lights, to the set, to the harmony I created, to those who have skillfully made her so pretty. I say "beautiful" with the tone this image deserves, as if the tone with which I say it was already the clue for a destination, a path. I say "beautiful" with my whole body, to suggest the idea of a possible pose, the rough projection of something I want. My body says: "I wish you were this emotion" and "I'm here, we can create that emotion together." The Nikon's motor drive makes a sound I like: metallic, chattering, but also soft, enticing: and I shoot and shoot, and I keep on saying "beautiful, beautiful, ooooh beautiful"; I recite it like a mantra, like a rhythmic counterpoint to the sound of the camera. [...]

His photographic subjects span from fashion and portraits to motorcycles and reportage, his archives are obviously filled with "particular" shots.
For the LateAndModern Gallery Thorimbert decided to select some of his "objects d'affection", a number of "milestones" juvenile works that decided his career.

Like a Black Angel

When I first saw Wender's movie "Wings of desire", one of the angels, namely Cassiel (played by Otto Sanders), instantly reminded me of Toni Thorimbert. Unlike Damiel, (Bruno Ganz, the protagonist of the movie) Cassiel hardly speaks, just stares at people, records their thoughts, unaffected by their feelings and passions. Silent and discreet, he does not yield to the temptation of becoming human, and therefore mortal (as opposed to Damiel, who falls in love with a woman). He stays where he is, regarding his winged companion with a little pity. He stays and looks at the world in black and white, listening to people's thoughts in the streets, in their houses, in train carriages. In short, he keeps on doing his job as if he had to accomplish a mission whose ultimate end is unknown to us humans and, possibly, to himself. He is just an angel. One of those angels that comes and goes, like a cloud.

I guess Cassiel reminded me of Toni Thorimbert because he acts like a cloud and because of those particular qualities which angels and clouds share : they are distant when you think you can reach out and touch them; you often realize you didn’t notice them even though they were right behind you; they constantly change shape and appearance; they travel all the time and live in different houses, or rather in quite ordinary hotels; but, more significantly, every time you see them you think it's going to be the last.

Thorimbert is not the only photographer who made me think of angels. In fact, not all photographers are angels even though it seems quite obvious to me that they could be. One of them, the Sicilian Ferdinando Scianna, once recalled what his father used to say : " the photographer is someone who resurrects the dead and kills the living". Back in the 20's, Sicilian major towns used to have a mayor, a parish priest, a pharmacist, a notary and a photographer. He had two basic roles:
  1. to portray our dearly departed as if they were still alive. This was the picture for future and everlasting display on the gravestone. No householders used to own cameras in those days. So the dead were thoroughly made up, their eyes opened, a couple of eye drops to give them a more luminous gaze, and ...snap ...it was the photographer's time to raise the dead again.
  2. to immortalize people in events such as baptisms, weddings, first Communions. Long exposure times. Stand still. Freeze. Don't blink, don't look away. Smile. Stick to that smile. The outcome was indeed very much like the photo on the gravestone. One by one there, all together here, a group of zombies.
The popular saying "the photographer is someone who resurrects the dead and kills the living", product of the average man's common sense, has its more articulated and philosophically refined version in Roland Barthes' La chambre claire
“Death is the eidos of the photograph” Barthes writes, and adds “ The photograph is a kind of primitive theatre, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a kind of figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath which we see the dead …. Living immobility. When we define photographs as a motionless images, we do not only mean that the figures they represent do not move; we mean that they do not emerge; they are anaesthetized and fastened down like butterflies … [....] If the photograph then becomes horrible, it is because it certifies, so to speak, that the corpse is alive, as corpse: it is the living image of a dead thing. The Photograph astonishes me in that it has something to do with resurrection". Here are some reasons that help us understand that all photographers, from those back in the 20's to the minor and great contemporary portrait photographers, can quite naturally act as intermediaries between this world and another world up above: they are priestly figures, or rather messengers, and finally angels.
But my main concern is to get to a definition of what kind of angel Toni Torimbert is, as thinking that angels are all the same is like thinking that men are all the same. That's not true, an angel is not just any old angel. I started by making a distinction: Thorimbert leans towards Cassel, and not Damiel. Now let me proceed.
As for me, like most people, I'm not so much afraid of being photographed as of somebody photographing me. Barthes' words explain clearly enough what may be the reasons for this fear. The fear of being mortified by photography, killed by the photographer. That is what unfailingly happens when a photographer portrays me. And this is an experience I have had several times as a magazine editor and founder with many a photographer.
Thorimbert portrayed me twice. So I wonder: did anything peculiar, special, different happen when behind the camera, opposite me (the target, the Spectrum, according to Barthes) there was Toni (the Operator)? Yes, it happened both times: I had a deep gloomy feeling that it would never happen again, that I would never see Thorimbert again, that it would be his “Last Photo of Paolo Pietroni".
Indeed, I had this pang in my heart both times: why the last photo? Was I going to die soon? Or was Thorimbert going to die? Or would we never meet again because he would quit being a photographer? Or rather would I quit being a journalist? And why quit? A disease? An adversity? A strange accident? An unexpected (mis)fortune?

Vague doubts, odd questions, would come and go, just like clouds. What stayed fixed in my mind was that idea that became eidos: "the last photo". And it went beyond my personal experience. And sure enough I looked at Clio Goldsmith's 1982 portrait taken by Thorimbert for the cover of the first issue of the new "Amica" and the way she smiled, with her head bent back, seemed to tell me : "This is the last Clio Goldsmith photograph". And the same happened with Cesare Musatti's photo: "This is the last Cesare Musatti photo". And I could go on and on for pages: Thorimbert's portraits all share this lowest common denominator, intense, disturbing, desperate and (desperately) beautiful: look carefully at this photo because it is going to be the last one ever.
Thorimbert is thus the angel who walks by and never returns to the same place in the same form, just like some clouds. I say he is the Black Angel, both because he likes wearing this colour-non-colour, and because he'd rather shoot in black and white (and when he takes colour photographs they look just like the colours of a man who sees the world in black and white, like Cassiel). Then I also say : he's the Last Angel, maybe because he is somehow capable of conveying his desire to capture your last portrait, your ultimate portrait, the portrait embracing all past, present, and future portraits.
This impression is so strong and disturbing that even now, as I’m writing these “last few lines”, I wonder how I can ever be sure he is going to get them, if they will ever be issued, and on what kind of page, paper, layout, and why?

Paolo Pietroni, 1999
Toni Thorimbert Prints Series
Notes on the prints

Toni Thorimbert's prints are dated, signed and certified by the author. Modern prints edition, unless where expressly noted, are produced in the declared number plus three artist's proofs.

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Silent frames of a journey into memory.

Digital C41 prints mounted on plexiglas, framed in white aluminium
Untitled, 1971-2000
Untitled, 1971-2000
Untitled, 1971-2000
Untitled, 1971-2000
Untitled, 1971-2000
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Untitled, 1971-2000
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Untitled, 1971-2000
Untitled, 1971-2000

Autogrill

A portfolio of photographs taken on the Italian Highways in the 70's.
Unique Vintage Silver Gelatine prints on Matte paper
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Autogrill, 1975-78
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Autogrill, 1975-78
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Autogrill, 1975-78
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Autogrill, 1975-78
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Autogrill, 1975-78
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Autogrill, 1975-78
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Autogrill, 1975-78

The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro

Hanging out in the Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro, a suburb of Milano.
Unique Vintage Silver Gelatine prints on Matte paper
Untitled
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro, 1977
Untitled
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro, 1977
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The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro, 1977
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The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro, 1977
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The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro, 1977
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The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro, 1977
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The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro, 1977
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The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro, 1977

Kids of Pioltello

Thorimbert juvenile black and white essay on a baby-gang in the suburbs of Milano.
Boxset of 8 modern giclée prints, numbered edition on Baryta paper.
Untitled
Kids of Pioltello, 1973
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Kids of Pioltello, 1973
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Kids of Pioltello, 1973

Rimini by night

Super soft misty nights on the Italian Riviera.
Unique Vintage Silver Gelatine prints on Matte paper
Untitled
Rimini by night, 1981
Untitled
Rimini by night, 1981
Untitled
Rimini by night, 1981
Untitled
Rimini by night, 1981

Plasticoni

SX70 Polaroids of passions and obsessions.
Packaged sets of 6 Vintage SX70 Polaroids
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Plasticoni, 90s
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Plasticoni, 90s
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Plasticoni, 90s
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Plasticoni, 90s
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Plasticoni, 90s
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Plasticoni, 90s
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Plasticoni, 90s
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Plasticoni, 90s
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Plasticoni, 90s
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Plasticoni, 90s
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T. Thorimbert

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Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

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Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1971-2000
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Silent frames of a journey into memory

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

around Italy, 1975-78
Autogrill

Cruising the Italian highways in the 70's

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

around Italy, 1975-78
Autogrill

Cruising the Italian highways in the 70's

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

around Italy, 1975-78
Autogrill

Cruising the Italian highways in the 70's

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

around Italy, 1975-78
Autogrill

Cruising the Italian highways in the 70's

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

around Italy, 1975-78
Autogrill

Cruising the Italian highways in the 70's

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

around Italy, 1975-78
Autogrill

Cruising the Italian highways in the 70's

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

around Italy, 1975-78
Autogrill

Cruising the Italian highways in the 70's

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1977
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro

Hanging out in the suburbs of Milan

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1977
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro

Hanging out in the suburbs of Milan

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1977
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro

Hanging out in the suburbs of Milan

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1977
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro

Hanging out in the suburbs of Milan

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1977
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro

Hanging out in the suburbs of Milan

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1977
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro

Hanging out in the suburbs of Milan

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1977
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro

Hanging out in the suburbs of Milan

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1977
The Cafes of Quarto Oggiaro

Hanging out in the suburbs of Milan

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1973
Kids of Pioltello

A juvenile black and white essay on a baby-gang in the suburbs of Milano

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1973
Kids of Pioltello

A juvenile black and white essay on a baby-gang in the suburbs of Milano

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 1973
Kids of Pioltello

A juvenile black and white essay on a baby-gang in the suburbs of Milano

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Rimini, 1981
Rimini by night

Super soft misty nights on the Italian Riviera

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Rimini, 1981
Rimini by night

Super soft misty nights on the Italian Riviera

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Rimini, 1981
Rimini by night

Super soft misty nights on the Italian Riviera

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Rimini, 1981
Rimini by night

Super soft misty nights on the Italian Riviera

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

T. Thorimbert

Untitled

Milano, 90s
Plasticoni

Packaged polaroids of passions and obsessions

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Toni Thorimbert