Phaidon’s new publication tells not only the story of Petronio’s collaborations and his unfiltered creativity, but also the evolution of fashion since the 1990s. Petronio’s opening preface and the words of editor and writer Charlotte Cotton present an engaging visual survey of Art Direction, Product Design, and Communication through 1,000 images, as well as interviews and commentary from insiders who have collaborated with Petronio, such as Jefferson Hack, Honey Dijon, Mark Jacobs, and Chloë Sevigny. Drawn by himself, the book delves into his aesthetic and creative world, showing the full variety of projects he has worked on over the course of his career – ranging from graphic design to typography to film direction. Visual Thinking & Image Making first reflects on what it means to be an Art Director, that is, to deal with a collaborative process, where different talents are brought together and orchestrated, and only then, the set of skills. Fill this role means expressing one’s talents in so many different ways, and Petronio’s work, in all its many forms, is a crossroads of visions, encounters, exchanges. He often finds himself behind the camera documenting all the extraordinary creative personalities with whom he shares life and sets. Handling the tools together like photography, illustration, publishing, and visual marketing of a product means designing and deciding firsthand the images and communication of many contemporary brands. His Polaroid portraits, to which a large section of the book is devoted, are instinctive, minimalist and spontaneous. Also central within the book is a conversation with Jefferson Hack on independent publishing, and another on image production between Petronio, fashion photographer David Sims, stylist Jane How, and art director Lana Petrusevych Petronio.
“The idea for this book stems from my desire to pass on to future generations what I have learned, what visual thinking and graphic design are to me, and my desire to share the idea that a creative mind can explore different mediums of expression.”
Ezra’s book is essentially a creative map on the visual culture of the last 30 years that draws all the territories explored by Petronio, clearly defining a horizon of potential needed to build a space of avant-garde and experimentation between fashion, design and visual storytelling. It is an unprecedented opportunity to retrace his work through his own eyes and to understand his unique language, often characterized by graphics that deconstruct, aiming at the essence by privileging substance and authentic integrity over commercial trends. It is the changing communication practices within the industry that makes the release of Visual Thinking & Image Making so unique and necessary. A nostalgic look grows, as one flips through the pages, on what is arguably the most interesting golden age of fashion, the book offers more than just photographs, but a true insight into imagemaking. For Petronio, this project is a love letter to his career and all the collaborators who have made it what it is, but also a look back at the most magical and creative moments.
“Great image creation and Art Direction are related to the idea that the end result is the sum of many parts, the perfect juxtaposition and mixture of various ingredients and talents.”
Ezra Petronio in several interviews remarks that he is constantly attracted to artists and talents who value dialogue and encounter because he sees in this action the courage to step out of the comfort zone and accept challenges, for him it is imperative to work with people who believe in the process as much as in the end result. He sees this collective effort as the only chance to create powerful images that resist the passing of time. Artists such as Juergen Teller and Richard Avedon create this kind of energy, definitively capturing emotions but still be timeless storytelling. This is what Ezra Petronio believes an image should be for him an emotion that resists the pass of time.
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