JOHN STEMBER PHOTOGRAPHY NARATIVE
' G IA '
Exhibition of Photography by John Stember of the world’s greatest Supermodel
Gia Carangi was an amazing beauty, a wild rebel, a one of a kind phenomenon and in her brief shining moment in the spotlight; she changed the fashion world forever. I was a fashion photographer in New York when she arrived in New in 1979, and we soon began working together. Our collaboration lasted almost three years and traced her meteoric arc from a rapid rise to precipitous fall. Her tragic death in 1986 shocked me, and I filed the photographs we had made together away, and tried not to think about what a terrible tragedy it was and what we had lost.
Going through my archives last year by chance I found these photographs that I had taken of Gia more than thirty years ago. I hadn’t seen them in years but instantly, I found myself reliving our incredibly wild and dramatic experiences together. Many people know of Gia through the 1998 HBO movie of the same name, in which she was portrayed by Angelina Jolie (who won her first Golden Globe for the role). I immediately realized that the real Gia resided in my files, in my negatives and my photographs, and that the time has come for her to speak for herself, and remind the world how truly special she was.
GIA burst onto New York’s fashion scene as a seventeen year old with a major wild streak and an exceptionally sultry and seductive beauty; she was immediately signed by the Wilhelmina model agency. We met almost immediately because I was working with American Vogue a lot at the time in New York, so she was soon booked with me to make a shoot for the magazine. Though she was a novice and new on the scene, she was already had something special, a dynamic character unlike any other model I had ever worked with, continually moving in a spontaneous way as if she was in another world.
GIA was unique and the photos we made that day and thereafter made that clear. She had a perfect face, body and looks, moved like a wild animal and had a provocative ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude that was very new, yet perfectly in synch with that rebellious moment in fashion. To be frank, working with her could become chaotic, but even though she could be tempestuous and difficult, she could also be as sweet as a kitten. She always came to life in front of the camera in a way that was unsurpassed. Which is why I loved working her. She was the best model I have ever worked with and although the word Supermodel may have preceded her she was its perfect embodiment.
Unfortunately her career was dramatically cut short when she succumbed to an ever increasing use of drugs, namely heroin and as a result in 1986, at age 26, she became one of the first woman celebrities to die from AIDS. I have always thought her death was the inevitable result of her need to overcome her obsessive sense of abandonment. She suffered from an insurmountable feeling of lovelessness that drove her, headfirst, into the darkest pools of fame. Her demons could have been anyone’s. They could have been my own. It was her obsessive need for love and the accursed temptations that accompanied her that were never far away.
Now, thirty years on, it feels imperative that I share what I experienced with Gia, and the beauty that she left behind, as captured in our photographs. The light and beauty in them stands in dramatic opposition to the darkness and loneliness of her personal life. One thing I know: these photographs that reveal her great beauty are immortal.
The goal of my G I A Exhibition is to honor her unique beauty and her rebellious spirit and to share what we shared with the untold thousands of fans to whom she has become an icon and an inspiration; she’s the Marilyn Monroe of her generation.
The ‘GIA’ Exhibition by John Stember consists of a collection of twenty-one photographs printed from his original negatives. All the photographs are printed as collectible, archival ‘C’ Prints, numbered and signed, that will be offered in limited editions with signed certificates of authenticity. They will be mounted, matted and framed in three sizes (72” x 48”, 40” x 30” and 70” x 50”).