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Barely Private

Eva Mendes from photographer Sante D'Orazio's new book, Barely Private, which combines his work with celebrities and notes from his diary.
Eva Mendes from photographer Sante D'Orazio's new book, Barely Private, which combines his work with celebrities and notes from his diary.

Sante D’Orazio doesn’t like empty pages. Having kept a diary for over 27 years, it always bugged the 53 year old photographer if a page was left blank at the end of an entry. His latest photo-diary-scrapbook, Barely Private, definitely has no blank pages. Instead the pages are crammed full of sizzling celebrity images and samples from D’Orazio’s diaries, leaving little to no white space.

“Photography is a passion and a language I have learned since I was a kid and a way of communicating,” D’Orazio said. “I do so better through images than words.”

D’Orazio, who has shot ad campaigns for clients including Versace, Tommy Hilfiger, and L’Oreal and has shot fashion spreads for magazines Vogue, Esquire and Vanity Fair, is in Miami during Art Basel weekend to promote his book at an exclusive party in his honor Friday night (Dec. 4) at Wall at W South Beach.

The 300-page book is a collection of celebrity photos and diary notes from 1997 to 2008, featuring such famous names as Brooke Shields, Penolope Cruz, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Keith Richards, Jay-Z and Mickey Rourke, to name a few.

The photographer took a few minutes with us after arriving in Miami and finding a quiet corner at an art exhibit he was attending to answer some questions.

Why did you choose to do the book?

This is my seventh book and like any artist, it’s like a permanent exhibition and the best use of space to show your work other than gallery.

What makes your book different from other celebrity photo books like this? 

I did a previous book called A Private View in 1996 and this book is in the same format; it’s the sister book. They are visual diaries and each of the pages has dates and notes. I have kept 27 years worth of visual diaries, so I took my diaries and mixed them with formal pictures in the first book. So this book became part two and it goes from 1997 until today.

Where did the habit of keeping a diary come from?

In the early part of my career I needed to document my shootings and had to do it all – how much film was used, hair and make-up, detail my billing. I was it so that’s how it happened. And when I would finish I would have an empty page and I hate empty pages. Somebody gave me a diary book in Milan in 1982, and ever since after my shoots I would stick in wine labels and matches because I hate empty pages. I needed something visual that reminded me of that day.

Was it your intention the entire time you shot celebrities and kept a diary to do a collection one day?

I never did because I was fixated on my dairies as a daily ritual – a habit. I would come home after a day of shooting and writing in my diary was meditation for me. So I would write for 15 minutes and it helped me make the transition to my home life. It helped me chill out.

Did you have to get releases from everyone in the book?

My first book took 3 years to get releases so this year I somewhat cheated. I got permissions only for the nudes. A lot of the other pictures were just flattering and I didn’t see anyone having a problem.  Mickey Rourke, he just texted me from New Mexico and loves the book and I never got permission from him.

What are your favorite images in the book – you know the ones when you look at them you discover something new each time?

I think funny enough, even with my first book, even though I know the photos inside and out I find new things that I didn’t remember. And I would never remember what I did if not for the diaries. We were editing this one and this picture from the Sex and the City shoot came up and I was like ‘Where did u get this picture?’ And it was the Sex and the City poster. I forgot.

Give me your wish list of three people – dead or alive – whom you would like to photograph? 

I have gotten to the point right now, having shot so many celebrities, that it either has to be a really sexy woman or it would be about my ideas which have gotten into a more conceptual frame of mind. I just read that the Vatican wants to do more to be an advocate of art and is considering opening a pavilion for art. Now I was thinking what I would like to do is go to Rome and do portraits of the Cardinals and link it to some art history of previous portraits. Now that would excite me right now.

So is the book closing a chapter of what you used to do?

Don’t get me wrong. If someone called me to do L’Oreal I would be there, but now I enjoy doing it more because I have this other side of my life being fulfilled. So the book is a self-portrait up to right now.

What are your expectations for Miami and Basel weekend?

The thing is having been in the magazine world I always had a great forum. Vogue or whatever. Now the ability to show your work is not as fluent – a gallery show may need a year’s time. So being here is a way of exposing myself and my work to people who can showcase it.

What’s next for you – after Basel weekend?

I have a show Dec. 8 in New York and after that I have years of work that no one has seen from the 90s that are unlike things in the book so I am trying to hustle some sort of sponsorship and gallery for that. I have some ideas for more books and some are ready to go. It’s like making small films, with lots of production time. And I have returned to painting again, so I got a lot of things in front of me.

Should we expect any of your subjects in the book at your party on Friday night?

I don’t think so, but someone always ends up showing up.