At 23, European fashion model Victor Arimondi made a decision that would change his life. It was the summer of 1972 and the passionate young Italian was reeling from the devastating end of a love affair and had just failed at a suicide attempt.
Arimondi decided to abandon his life in front of the camera for the chance to work behind it. He hoped photography would help voice his tangled emotions and express his restless creative energy. He applied to Fotoskolan, one of the best photography schools in Stockholm, his adopted hometown, in the hopes of starting that fall. The school was led by famous Swedish photographer, Christer Stromholm, whose work he admired.
Arimondi had to submit a trio of black-and-white self-portraits as part of his Fotoskolan application. Even that early work shows the raw talent and flair for fantasy that would evolve and grow throughout his photography career.
In one portrait, Arimondi sits somberly on a curvy striped couch in a custom-made striped white suit with his Siamese cat, Clown, on his lap. His natural grace and confidence as a model in front of the camera shows. But this time, Arimondi had created the setting, and his composition is striking, both glamorous and casual, his own intensity shining through.
Another self-portrait is as carefully composed as a still life in a painting. Arimondi wears a black shirt, his unsmiling face topped by a mass of wild black hair seems to show the strain of his emotional state. He sits at his dining table, holding a spoon, artfully framed by a table-top still life: the bottle of wine, the full wine glass, the fruit and a glass candlestick focus the viewer in on his dark visage.
The third portrait shows Arimondi with a mask on his head, holding a fake poppy and wearing a black embroidered Japanese robe given to him by a dear friend. Masks, costumes, fantasy— they would show up constantly in his work over the years as he used photography to explore his own creative muses and demons.
A month later, the news by letter: He had been accepted at Fotoskolan. His new life could begin. Arimondi, who had dabbled in other artistic endeavors, including fashion design, seemed to sense the importance and lasting impact of this one.
In his unpublished autobiography, written in 1984, he recalled:
I was now going to do something constructive. I was going to learn about my talent. I was going to express all my feelings through this little mechanical box called a camera.”
His new life as a photographer had begun.
I approached it from the very beginning as something where I could express my innermost feelings,” wrote Arimondi. “Love was going to be the basis of it, my desperate quest for love and dreams and the only reality was the camera, the film, and I needed to learn more about it.”
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Early portraits reveal beginning photographer’s promise • Victor Arimondi Photography