Luigi and Iango: “Look me in the eyes”

This article appears in Issue 38 of Vanity Fair, on newsstands until September 19, 2023.

In an hour and a half of conversation with Luigi and Iango, we moved from social networks (“so hypocritical”) to dramas (“feminicides that no one wants to fight”) and games (“on the set we are like two children in a candy store”). It’s like a pas de deux: Luigi leads quickly, Iango intervenes with elegant lunges. One and the other, one with the other.

Luigi and Iango, photographers and artists, I am Luigi Murenu from Cagliari and already a visionary hairdresser who, since the late 1980s, has contributed to defining our idea of ​​beauty for two decades, and Yango Henzi, a Swiss, with the clear eyes and punctuality of a man who was a dancer. Luigi and Iango are some of the most respected photographers in the world: think of a celebrity or top model and they have immortalized it since Julianne Moore to Rihanna, from Naomi Campbell to Vittoria Ceretti. Over twelve years of an enviable romantic and professional partnership (“never argued, discussed, yes, often”) they signed more than 250 covers for Fashionprojects for independent magazines such as IDENTIFIER AND Dust, created a digital platform Double vision, a kind of pantheon of modern beauty. For us in Vanity Fair they conceived a cover that immediately went viral, with Blanco and Mahmoud after winning Sanremo 2022 (“Do you remember that Instagram censored the shot?” says Murenu), an exquisite project starring Cate Blanchett at the Venice Film Festival last year , unforgettable Problem with icons with a portfolio dedicated to Madonna (“What wonderful madness!” says Henzi) and something else that is too early to reveal.

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Instead, speaking of veils, we can talk about their first major solo exhibition: disclosed (from September 21 to November 26), installed in the Prince’s Apartment at the Royal Palace in Milan. features over a hundred photographs, prints, unpublished materials, videos and behind-the-scenes footage. “It will be free, open to everyone. We believe in the beauty that lies in inclusion, dialogue and comparison. There is no way
unique: each room with different colors and scents is an unforgettable experience. This is not a retrospective, but an introspective exhibition,” explains Luigi. “I would like it to be a dish that is not too fancy and not too rich: we have made a selection of our works so that your mouth will water for what will be served in the future,” adds Jango Henzi. A highlight is the gallery dedicated to the collaboration with Madonna, which includes an unpublished photograph of the artist depicted in a sort of Compassion Modern. “He’s the first big celebrity we’ve immortalized. She is family to us. After fears over the past months for his health, we are very pleased that the time for celebration will soon come,” they say. Madonna gave them two days of photo sessions alone and in the foreword to the catalog (Phaidon) accompanying the Milan exhibition, she wanted to emphasize that the work with Luigi and Iango is like “starring in the films of your favorite Italian directors: Pasolini, Fellini or Visconti.” The duo smiles: “Our calling card is organized chaos, this magic that happens when you arrive, you have carefully prepared, but then you leave room for improvisation to capture that sideways glance, that moment of weariness or carelessness, that less obvious detail that is worth revealing.” They wanted to pay tribute to the maternal side, the generative power of an icon like Madonna: “She is a woman of great enthusiasm and great generosity “, they agree.

Their stories always have a homely feel to them: “Luigi,” says Iango, “really likes to cook for everyone during breaks on set: it creates a feeling of closeness and mutual understanding. We are aesthetes, we love things done well and we are also precise and quite obsessive in our study and preparation, but there is an element of play and fun that makes a photo shoot a unique experience for us and the subjects being photographed.”

And then you want to ask a thousand thousand anecdotes, one for every celebrity they meet, and this is where Luigi and Iango decide to talk about the shot with the model. Precious Lee. A nude model of extraordinary impact: “Up close you can see beads of sweat: you almost want to touch this photograph,” comments Jango Henzi. “When she saw it, Precious was touched. According to her, this was the first time she was true to herself. The body has the ability to communicate what words cannot, right? We like to revealunconscious beauty, this unconscious beauty that makes us so unique and different from each other,” says Luigi Murenu. To appreciate such shots, we need time and attention, and not the syncopated swipes that we are accustomed to: “Images need to be examined calmly, only then they reveal themselves. Photography can be an agent of real change if it contributes to the way we see the world: we like to reveal the unusual and what we tend to hide with stupid taboos and prejudices,” they note. For this sartorial photograph, created in a home studio that resembles a Renaissance workshop, Luigi and Iango draw on models from Western art history (Giottosque and imposing forms, Baroque frames, surreal flashes) as they move between excess and minimalism. (“between passion and modesty”), but if we talk about the master, then the name of the Japanese Yoshito Ono (1938-2020), the great interpreter of butoh dance. “At our first meeting, he appeared already elderly, dressed only in flesh-colored underwear: his daughter dressed him, his wife put on makeup. We witnessed this moment as a sacred dedication. Then his dance blinded us. When we returned to Tokyo to portray him during the difficult period of the pandemic, we shot in 15 minutes, in religious silence. At the end he asked us what would remain of him, of his dance, of his art after his death. “Will this world still be capable of empathy?” – he asked. These words became a life lesson for us. At such times, we shy away from all cynicism, we despise images that are too light, banal and even too coarse, vulgar. We decided to reveal the unconscious beauty, the one that only empathy can comprehend. Empathy is at the core of our work and is what we would like to be remembered for.”

Exhibition, book

Manifesto disclosed, first solo exhibition of Luigi and Iango (from September 21 to November 26 at Palazzo Reale, Milan). More than 100 photographs and unpublished materials.

Book (Phaidon) with exhibition images and cover of Madonna’s version. Problem with icons For Vanity Fair.

Portrait art

Luigi and Iango, in life Luigi Murenu, 59 years old, and Iango Henzi, 44 years old, photographers and artists.

Some of their portraits.

Cate Blanchett.



Everything for us

Mahmoud and Blanco pose for the cover of a magazine Vanity Fair (March 9, 2022).

Which subjects

Luigi and Iango at work in 2023.

Other celebrities who posed for them: Vincent Cassel, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss.

All photographs taken by Luigi and Iango.

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