The Enduring Legacy of Davide Sorrenti's Photographs, in his Mother's Words

by Hetty Mahlich on 22 November 2021

Francesca Sorrenti talks about the lasting effect of her son's images and the new book that she's edited, My Beutyfull Lyfe.

Francesca Sorrenti talks about the lasting effect of her son's images and the new book that she's edited, My Beutyfull Lyfe.

Davide Sorrenti's photographs stay with you forever. Perhaps you first encountered model Jaime King lit in blue neon whilst stood in front of a popcorn machine on your Tumblr feed, or came across Sorrenti's intimate portraits of friends in a book. The artist, who died in 1997 aged 19, simultaneously documented and created a world rooted in the playground of New York; here image-making is fantasy and reality in equal parts. The faded grade of analogue photography hits with a heady nostalgia. Pervaded also by melancholy, Sorrenti's aesthetic is often associated with 'heroin chic', which defined the final decade before the millennium. He suffered from a life-threatening blood disorder which frequently left him physically exhausted, and yet at the end of his lens you'll find the electrifying lifelines of the people he was most fascinated by, be that skaters, models or friends. His mother, who has edited a new book of Sorrenti's work, says that rather than death and drugs, his legacy lies in the 'freedom to express'.

My Beutyfull Lyfe is the third publication by IDEA books, edited by Francesca Sorrenti, which puts the image-maker's moving body of work into lasting, tangible form. Taking his archive beyond the pages of the internet, Sorrenti's mother has curated diary pages, scribbles and photographs from 1995-1997. These include fashion shoots and visual documents of bubbling subcultures such as hip-hop and graffiti, the latter to which Sorrenti belonged. We spoke to Francesca Sorrenti to find out more.

Photograph Davide Sorrenti, 'I wishing Tara'

Hetty Mahlich: Why do you think Davide’s work continues to endure and fascinate a whole new generation of image-makers and followers of photography?

Francesca Sorrenti: I feel the reason is that the youth culture of today identify with his work. Many young creative people are fascinated by the fact that he was so young and yet so creative while having to live with a debilitating disease. Since the 90s the youth culture has stayed consistent and the 90s basically liberated many of the young people and has set a trend that still lives on today. The vibe, the dress codes have been the same as the youth culture of the 90s. And Davide's photos reflect this feeling of expression. Today's 40-plus image-makers reminisce about their time and Davide reflects memories. When Davide passed it was labeled heroin chic but today it is called freedom to express!

HM: What’s your favourite photograph in the book and why?

FS: That is a difficult question because I put all these pictures together by choosing all my favourites. I would have to say the cover is my number one. I love the grittiness, the urban feel, but at the same time there is a certain feeling of melancholy. I have to say another one of my favourites is the one of Vanina's (Davide Sorrenti's sister) back, looking out to the Venice canal. I love the moodiness, and again that far away feeling. It was also the last time that we were on a shoot together.

My Beutyfull Lyfe, published by IDEA books

HM: What is this publication exploring about Davide’s work which we haven’t yet seen in book form?

FS: This book is dedicated to his professional fashion work and his personal view of fashion. There have been snippets in his other books but this one is a compilation of all his fashion work in his short young life. It also shows how many creative people believed in him and his work at the time, both on an editorial and advertising level. It also shows the teams who have worked with him.

My Beutyfull Lyfe is available now (£70).



Interview: Mario Sorrenti

14 September 2018
Fashion photographer Mario Sorrenti interviewed by Mimma Viglezio on 14 September 2018 as part of SHOWstudio’s ‘In Fashion’ series.

Interview: Kate Moss on Mario Sorrenti

27 May 2015
Kate Moss tells Nick Knight about shooting Calvin Klein's 1993 Obsession campaign with her then-boyfriend Mario Sorrenti.

Davide Sorrenti's Legacy is Celebrated in New Book

13 November 2019
ArgueSKE 1994-1997 sees a retrospective of the photographer's work curated by his mother.
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