Joshua Gordon

The underbelly of alt culture

When Joshua Gordon went to Thailand, he followed a gang of teenage bikers and witnessed their fraternity. He saw how the young boys had each other’s backs and would die for one another. He directed the film about this along with the country’s occultism and witchcraft culture that religious people might completely exile in their belief systems, but that other people base their spirituality and faith on. After a while, he wanted to investigate the drag landscape in Cuba. Armed with his lens, he was hoping to capture the tight-knit drag community in a country that might not yet be open to the queer scene. He ended up meeting twin trans sisters and peered into their intimate life.

Joshua’s thirst for fascination also brought him to Japan. Amidst the psychedelic allure and eccentricity of the country, he photographed the locals’ fascination with toys. He saw young punks living and sleeping with their plushies, a lifelike woman giving birth with the baby’s head popping out of her vagina, and lots of latex sex dolls in stores and homes. Somehow, Joshua knows how to excavate the surface of the social infrastructure. He digs hard and deep that midway, his photographs and documentaries have unraveled parts of him that seem to be hidden in plain sight. These visual cues are snippets of the ups and downs he has gone through in life and art, a narrow gateway to who he is and how he became what he is.

Take ‘Transformation,’ where he manipulates photos of himself using artificial intelligence to bring about different versions of himself. He considers the project special to him, but viewers seem to have only noticed and commented about his physique and the size of his penis. The series has become reduced to a visual commodity for public viewing, making Joshua aware and alert to the current relationship between art and the viewers. What Joshua creates gives nothing in-between; either the viewer gets startled by the brashness of his images and films, or they feel for the emotions the visual works evoke. Every publication and project hides a backstory, and in a conversation with NR, Joshua brings them to light.

Matthew Burgos: How did you develop your documentary style in photography, video, and collage? Has this always been your intended style?

Joshua Gordon: Documenting was always the first thing I did. I started using photos as a tool when I began creating pictures at around 13/14 years old, not for any artistic reason or self-expression. Every skate crew needed a filmer and/or photographer, so that’s what I became. And every graffiti crew needed someone with a camera, so I filled that role too. Over time, through graffiti, I learned more about photography and discovered my favorite photographers. After that, I delved more into what might be considered quite traditional documentary photography.

Matthew Burgos: Let’s discuss your zines Diary Part 1 and 1.5 which definitely have the documentary photography style you just mentioned. Do you see the photos in these zines as a reflection of how you saw and painted the world at the time, with the use of dark and gritty imagery?

Joshua Gordon:  I think it’s dark and gritty because I was depressed and poor at the time. I was living hand to mouth and didn’t really have a penny to my name. When Diary Part 1 was made, I was working in a warehouse loading trucks and stealing stuff from high-end stores for cash. The other zine was created just after I left.

I think that when I started making pictures for those books, I wanted to shock and be brash. I was surrounded by a lot of misery, staying in moldy bedsits with rats crawling on my ceiling, and I was never able to pay my rent. Shocking isn’t my intention now; I’m more interested in evoking emotions.

Matthew Burgos: Your Butterfly project seems to have a similar style yet a different tone. Can you talk about how you approached this project, and what brought you to explore the nightlife in Havana?

Joshua Gordon: Well, I don’t really plan much; I just go with the flow and feel things out. I’ve always been inspired by 80’s drag, and it’s been a constant source of inspiration for me. I wanted to find some older drag queens and live with them.

Aries offered me the chance to go to Cuba and work on a project of my choice, including creating a book. I was going there to explore and see what I could find. When we arrived, the queer world was small and super intertwined. It ended up being less about drag and more about these two twin sisters I met and their friends. I suppose you could say it was a portrait of them and their community. 

Matthew Burgos: You also directed Krahang, following a group of teenage biker gang in Thailand. How did you discover them, and what did you learn about them that wasn’t evident in the film?

Joshua Gordon: There are a lot of interesting things happening in Thailand—hidden customs and alternative perceptions towards topics that might be considered taboo in other parts of the world. What sticks out to me when I spend time in Southeast Asia is the sense of community. The West is obsessed with individualism. Everyone thinks that the world revolves around them and people have the “main character syndrome.” There’s no decency or love among people.

In Thailand, life is hard and fast and vibrant. There’s a strong community spirit. The boys in the gang were best friends and would have died for each other. I was also very interested in Thai witchcraft and occultism, which is something pretty much everyone there is interested in or scared of. I touched on that in the film along with the teen biker gang.

Matthew Burgos: Let’s talk about your investigation into adult toy culture in Japan leading to the book TOY. What specifically drew you to explore this topic in a country known for its eccentric culture?

Joshua Gordon: I love toys; they’ve been important to me my whole life. Objects bring me a sense of comfort and fluffy familiarity when I travel. Everything in Japan is “kawaii:” you see an ambulance speeding down the street and its logo is a smiling drop of blood. Even the police logo Pipo-kun is fucking adorable. Japan is cute but it also has a dark edge. I wanted to show that mix in the book; the duality of cuteness and darkness.

During my time in the Japanese countryside, in a quaint area called Gunma, I found an old toy museum. Inside, I discovered these porcelain sculptures of couples with long robes on. When you turn them upside down, you see the characters’ penises and vaginas with fuzzy pubic hair. A lot of things in Tokyo have a hidden meaning or a secret backside; I wanted to explore that. 

Matthew Burgos: How about ‘Transformation’? Is it a visual anthology of the growth you’ve experienced throughout your career?

Joshua Gordon: I was at my lowest when making ‘Transformation.’ I was dealing with a severe eating disorder, hospitalization due to tumors, a difficult breakup, and substance abuse, and I felt like I was going insane on a little beach in Mexico. The photos helped me escape somewhere else. I tried to use artificial intelligence and children’s image manipulation apps to create a fantasy land of my own.

But nobody understood. I received comments about my physique and penis size—just basic interpretations of something that meant a lot to me, a project that acted as sort of a ladder to help me out of my hole. It was devastating. I spent around 7,000 pounds and six months creating the books and artworks. I managed to sell only one book at the exhibition and not a single painting. It was quite upsetting, but the project (still) means a lot to me.

Galcher Lustwerk

Abstract Universe

Galcher Lustwerk wants you to know he can do it all. The DJ and producer came from attending DIY punk shows in Cleveland  and noise festivals in Providence before settling in Brooklyn’s dance music zeitgeist. His 100% GALCHER mix, made of all originals, propelled him to prominence in 2013, and his multi-layered approach to house music has solidified him as one of the city’s mainstays, becoming a regular at the likes of Bossa Nova Civic Club, Paragon, Nowadays, and Good Room.

But the artist, born Chris Sherron, is more than Galcher Lustwerk. With a plethora of side projects that ranges from post-rock to techno body horror to ambient driving music, he proves he can do it all.

Weeks after the release of his latest Ghostly International project, LUSTWERK II, Galcher Lustwerk speaks to Arielle Lana LeJarde for a wide-ranging conversation about comic books, social media, and why the U.S. hosts the best dance music scene in the world.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: I know you started making music in middle school with Fruity Loops and then got Ableton in 2003, but I’m curious—aside from wanting to find Black music that didn’t have the parental advisory sticker on it—what drew you to electronic music?

Galcher Lustwerk: Looking back on it, I think I was sort of just into the, the, the sort of, I mean, like, the futuristic like science fiction-ness of it. Especially around that time that drum and bass and these sort of more heady genres were just getting a little heavier and more instrumental. It felt like I could absorb music in a more ambient way. It kind of felt emotional and I related to the way that there was no words or anything. I just connected to that on this abstract, futuristic, and emotional viewpoint. Also with regards to the artworks, the CDsm and the packaging, I was just super into that it. 

Around the same time, I was into going to comic book stores. That kind of tie kind of ties into that stuff being anime and robots. That was the zeitgeist [of electronic music], at least in the late 90s or early 2000s. Everyone was hooked on if they’re into like, electronic music, comics, and even skateboarding.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: What comics or manga did you read?

Galcher Lustwerk: I was into Batman at first. There was this corner store that I would  go to that had a comic stand and I started the darker stuff like Batman, Spawn, and all the weird ones. The weirdest drawings, I would be attracted to. Later on, I would drive to the comic store with my parents and that’s how I found out about Akira. That kind started making me like shift my focus towards manga. I think manga was on another level. 

I was I was also drawing a lot and had aspirations of doing comics at one point. Seeing the magnitude and the amount of craft that went into stuff like that was was really cool. It just interested me from a media standpoint.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: If you could create your own comic what would it be about?

Galcher Lustwerk: The narratives that I’m into are surveillance heists, mystery-type spy stories and secret agents. So I’m sure I’d have some to do with that. It would have an international feel—a globe-trotting jet set vibe. Kind of the same vibe I’m trying to do with music. I would try and make it feel substantial like Akira. Akira was huge! It had volumes. There’s something that’s cool about having that much of a world packed into into like a solid object.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Iif you were to say that you’re like creating a world with your music, what does that world look like?

Galcher Lustwerk: It just looks like the world like the world as it is, but maybe with an omniscient, detached, vouyeristic point of view. It would have a focus on perception, space and light. I have a lot of visual reference images and a lot of them have to do with being in golden hour, when the sun is setting and everything’s kind of hazy. I’m always sort of thinking about in the back of my mind, in a synesthetic way, it’s what I see by default.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: It’s interesting that you mention being a voyeur and futuristic stuff, but you’ve said in the past you’ve been shy about social media.

Galcher Lustwerk: I think I’m frustrated with how much time and like energy it expends. It’s hard to put a marketing hat on all of a sudden, and then focus on this whole other goal. With music, I’m just trying to finish tracks and put out the tracks. With DJing, I’m trying to get people to dance. And with social media, I’m just getting people actually pay attention to what I’m trying to say, period. So it’s like a frustration more than anything. I’m trying. At least now, I’m trying. I stopped using Twitter so with TikTok and Instagram, I can focus more. I do enjoy using TikTok and viewing TikToks. It’s a workflow thing and habit thing. 

I’m really like dragging my feet getting accustomed to everything, I guess. But when I think about making music and the artists that I do appreciate, they don’t really use social media either. But at the end of the day, I just want people as many people to hear what I’m putting out. So it’s not worth nothing.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: What’s on your «for you» page?

Galcher Lustwerk: It’s been like real messed up lately. I think it was cool in Berlin, but as soon as I got back to the States, it’s been really political and chatty. Which I like sometimes, but I prefer cute animal videos that I can send to my wife that we can watch and laugh together.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Did you see that viral TikTok of those girls getting rejected from Basement?

Galcher Lustwerk: No, I haven’t yet.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: It’s deleted now, but I saw it posted on Twitter and now I think about it all the time.

Galcher Lustwerk: That’s funny. I can’t tell you how that benefits basement. Or if it does or not.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Everyone was just shitting on it. Shitting on the girls. Shitting on Basement calling it a budget Berghain.

Galcher Lustwerk: I prefer Basement over Berghain any day, honestly. Once they got the studio in there, it’s been awesome.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Do you think people would be mad at you for saying that?

Galcher Lustwerk: I don’t know. I don’t care. I feel like they’re losing the power they used to hold. There’s a lot of other Berlin-based clubs that have popped up that are just as good and easier to get into. That vibe can be found elsewhere now. Berlin specifically has got the whole city behind it. It’s part of their tourism, so I think it’ll always be hyped up which is cool. I mean, it’s cool to have a place like that.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Do you think New York City is that place in the U.S.? A lot of artists have been saying they think NYC is actually the best city for dance music in the world, actually.

Galcher Lustwerk: I would agree with that. I think there are way more exciting things happening here than in Europe, at least for what’s on my radar. The youth culture in New York is just so huge. After pandemic, I’ve definitely felt like there’s a younger crowd that’s so psyched—they see what they like and they just do it. 

[In New York], there’s no trending thing necessarily. Yes, right now we’re into really fast techno, but our scene also has this South African influence. There’s club, there’s drill, there’s garage—and it’s all being played at the same time, which is sick. Berlin is just fast techno or trance. You’re gonna you’re gonna get the same genre for the whole night. But in New York, it’s always a surprise.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Back to your music, how does your recent release, LUSTWERK II, fit into your catalog?

Galcher Lustwerk: I wanted to call it LUSTWERK II because it’s a cheeky—in a way different—reality that would have been my second release after the mix. It was basically what I was working on right after the mix, the original 100% GALCHER mix. I had put some of them on the Resident Advisor Podcast and then a few of them were on vinyl. At the time, I was like really taken aback by the amount of attention that was going on and  just like not not knowing what to do. So to me, I’m kind of cleaning out the closet a little bit and bringing attention back to these tracks because they were never on Spotify or Bandcamp or anything. I do have like a bunch of stuff I’m trying to get out by the end of the year. 

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Do you read reviews of your own music?

Galcher Lustwerk: Yeah, I have to read them all. Just to make sure there’s no like errors or anything.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Do you think it affects you in any way or do you actually care what people think?

Galcher Lustwerk: I like reading the reviews, but I also feel like reviews have lost their significance a lot in the past few years. To me reviews are almost a comfort because you’re being validated and it’s not like the consequence of whether enough people like caught it or not.  There are so many so many releases that aren’t being reviewed and more people listen to them than the releases that get reviewed. It’s weird. The review doesn’t matter anymore, I think. I mean, it matters a little bit, but in terms of helping people make decisions on buying music, it’s it doesn’t really make a difference anymore.

Arielle Lana LeJarde: Is there anything else you want people to know about you, or is anything you think people get wrong about you that you want to correct?

Galcher Lustwerk: I’m comfortable in saying I’m just really multifaceted. Some people may see one side and not the other. There’s a lot of detail that I put into my work that if you pay attention to it, it’s rewarding. And that’s what I what and what makes me happy as an artist, is being able to put all of these abstract ideas into into a media object. 

Also, I got like a lot of side projects that are all separate concepts as well. Just to run them down. There’s like Macchiatto, which is kind of my post-rock thing. There’s Power User, which is a video game music-themed project. Then there’s this project called The Fock, which is my techno body horror project. I got another project called Road Hog, which is like music for driving. I have all those separate projects that I think people would people would fuck with.

Oh, also I feel like the United States has the best DJs and the best producers. I’m not patriotic, but I favor us in terms of just like how this music is an American thing and a Black American innovation. I feel. So I’m definitely pro- that.


 Photography · Collin Hughes

Bambou Gili

Les Dîners de Mamito, 2022

Painting and the challenge of storytelling

Bambou Gili’s paintings are world-building projects, sprawling in narrative and unified by rich, tight colour palettes. Throughout her body of work, fantastical landscapes activate the feminine figures inside them, allowing for nature to become an ally, a co-conspirator, a unique character in and of itself. In each series, the artist — whose inspirations range from the animation of Hayao Miyazaki to the French Impressionists — dives into a singular colour spectrum to experiment freely and tap into possibility. Oil drippings in green, blue or purple produce a textural, eerie stillness that moves across tableaux like an omniscient spectre. Gili’s surrealistic scenes, imbued with this energy, are both clandestine and playful: lush plants, serene bodies of water and ethereal trees conceal subjects from one another as their concurrent stories unfold, and each protagonist exudes a presence that matches the magnitude of her surroundings. Within Gili’s alternate universe, environment and human emotion vibrate at an equal frequency somewhere between waking and dreaming.

Your paintings deliver an intriguing sense of mystery, a haunting quality,sometimes spectral but in some cases almost ironic. The subjects are oftenwomen portrayed in nature or domestic settings. One particular work or yours, Sleep Paralysis(2021)reminds me of The Nightmare by Heinrich Füssli(1781), while others bare similarities with the secret forests of Rousseau. Beside arthistorical sources, what are the inspirations behind your works? Do you look at peoplefrom your personallife,photographs,magazines,socialmedia?

Yes! Neighbourhood Sleep Paralysis was based off of Nicolai Abildgaard’s Nightmare (1800), after Heinrich Füssli. Regarding inspiration, nothing is off-limits. I tend to gravitate towards working in series. I like to focus on an idea for a long period of time and see what bodies of works come out of it. While I’m doing research for that idea, I scour everything. If I see something that makes me think of the series, I document it and store it in my series folder. So, take my last one — I was looking at imagined scenes from Calvino’s Nonexistent Knight, 14th-century armour from the MET collection, Scooby Doo  stills, etc.

While looking at your works one can clearly notice the predominance of blue and green, applied both for living figures as for landscapes. Where does this fascination with these tones come from?

Ha! I get this question a lot. Fun fact: In Zulu, ‘blue’ and ‘green’ are the same word. When I go to the MET, I’ll end up staring at a bright green Lisa Yuskavage painting, admiring the use of colour.

In my last solo, The Non-Existent Night, the series started as an exercise to focus on colour at night. A way to consciously limit my palette to greens, blues and purples. That’s not to say I want my next series to focus on these tones exclusively.

Aggie & Pieter, 2022

Talking about light work and how important it is for you, I was reminded of theimpressionists, who often tried to capture the same subject under different light. Can you tell me something about this study of light and how you incorporate it inyour practice?

Light at night is notoriously hard to capture. You don’t often see a true representation of lowlight scenes. Photos and videos often do a bad job portraying those blues. Which is what led to my night series.

I find the dichotomy of timeframes in your work very interesting: on the one hand, the depicted subjects don’t belong to a specific era historically, on the other, they’re located in the specific — and narrow — time frame of the night. How do you look at time when addressing a new series? Is there a straight conceptionoflinearity?

Honestly, I have not thought about it! I think that the red thread here is the fact that all humans have experienced the night.

I had the pleasure of seeing a preview of your new series, which you willexhibit in your next solo show at Night Gallery (LA) in March. Can you explain the inspiration behind it and how you shaped it through paint?

The work is based on, built around Goodbye Earl, a country song by the [Dixie] Chicks. It’s an upbeat tune, just four minutes or so, but as you listen, you’re introduced  to an entire saga — two childhood friends grow up together in a rural area. One moves out, the other stays. The one who stays ends up in an abusive relationship and, try as she might to leave, can’t seem to escape. Well, after exhausting legal outlets, she falls back on her old friend, who returns and helps hatch the plan…Earl has to die.

Now, the thing that intrigued me about the song was the storytelling. They manage to build this entire world — give you details about the friendship, walk you through a murder, get you on their side — in a matter of minutes. Not a movie or a six-part series,  but a short song. But somehow, there’s considerable depth, a lot of colour to the story and the characters.

As a painter, I thought that’d be an interesting challenge. Can you, like The Chicks have  done in a song, tell a story in a series of paintings? A story you physically walk and move through? And more than just illustrating a story, can you express the same depth? Have it stand on its own — draw you in, intrigue you, where is this going? ‘Oh shit! But, wait, oh yes, let’s go’. In short, can it move you the way the song does? A world-building exercise.

Storytelling is thus pivotal to your work. Whether it’s to convey a specificsense of mystery, like in the 2020-22 series on the night, or an actual concatenation of events, a single painting exists in relation to the other. Thinking in these terms, what was the difference between your old works and this last series?

Surely there’s some stylistic coherence. So they’re loosely related. But I mean, every year of my life you could ask me to look back two years in the past, and I’d be slightly embarrassed of who I was and what I was doing. You could read that really pessimistically,  but the way I see it…if you’re not feeling that way, you’re not evolving.

Blue Kitchen, 2021

While talking about your upcoming show, you told me that the theme of the song slowly became close to your personal life while you were painting the series. In what sense do you think that this song by the Chicks and your translation of it in paint can be relevant for yourself and for collective society, women in particular?

Making the works, you’re forced to view the Goodbye Earl narrative through the cultural context of 2022. It’s not just an arbitrary story. It’s about friendship, relying on your fellow women, revolution if you will. That if it really has to come down to me or you, well, I’m choosing me, bitch. Fuck you. That rings different after 2022, after overturning Roe. Gives it a stronger bite.

But still, there’s a femininity to the murder. They kill Earl over dinner. Compare that to, say, the Goodfellas painting (from this series) — the opening scene, Pesci, DeNiro and Liotta are driving down a dark road, they hear some bumps in the trunk. They pull over, open the trunk, where there’s a guy, barely alive and covered in blood. Pesci stabs him a bunch, DeNiro shoots him multiple times, and Liotta’s voice-over: ‘As far as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster’.

You gotta love that these ladies didn’t want to kill someone, didn’t want to take it there —  so when they’re forced to, it’s considered, it’s bloodless. Just a poisoning of peas.

How do you see your work developing in the future?

It’s an opportunity to experiment with new colours, new themes. I hope it feels completely  different.

Evil Twin in Vivienne Tam, 2022


  1. Les Dîners de Mamito, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles Photo: Charles White
  2. The Face Stealer’s Pond, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Perrotin, New York
  3. Neighborhood Sleep Paralysis, 2020. Courtesy the artist
  4. Aggie & Pieter, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Night Gallery, Los Angeles Photo: Nik Massey
  5. Mind-Body-Body Problem (After Junji Ito), 2022. Courtesy the artist and Lyles and King, New York
  6. Blue Kitchen, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Arsenal Contemporary Art, New York
  7. Evil Twin in Vivienne Tam, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Lyles and King, New York

Pietro Groff

Rust Green


Photography · Pietro Groff
Styling · Antonio Chiocca
Casting · Chisom Abuba at White Casting
Hair · Masayuki Yuasa using Less is More
Make-up · Janette Peters
Set Design · Nina Oswald
Models · Margot Heyer and Masa at Neu Casting, Sophia Zoë and Dan at Eli Xavier Casting, Albena at Indeed Model Management, Ine Michelmann at Modelwerk, Jonathan Scotti at Nest Model Management, Nils Daps at Tigers MGMT and Semi Al-Zubi at Core Management
Photography Assistant · Nina Groff
Styling Assistant · Tania Aquaro
Hair Assistant · Lee Hyangsoon
Make-up Assistant · Anna-Lisa Pritsch
Set Design Assistants · Ruby Oswald, Juliette Catelle
Production · Carina Parke 

Gabriele Galimberti

Recording society and its patterns, arrangements and faces is Galimberti

Homes are provisional. Society lives within borders and over bones. Recording society and its patterns, arrangements and faces is Galimberti. The Italian-born Gabriele Galimberti is an internationally renowned photographer and visual storyteller. With a committed gaze, he observes and recounts scenes of being with a practice that is as creative as it is concrete. Entering his subject’s private world, he captures images of people at their jobs and in their homes, with their belongings, families or certain possessions to research and align intra-human patterns across the world. Exhibiting on a global scale, Galimberti works across commercial fields, collaborates with National Geographic and maintains a steady production of his stories. 

His lens is nearly within touching distance of subjects, and the product is an analogue of involved intimacy and exposed vulnerabilities. His techniques render a symbolic, slightly unsettling representation of subjects as being behind one-way glass in another room. His approachable character and honest intentions allow him to engage with his subjects and become a part of their lives in the intimacy of their homes. Galimberti’s work offers perspectives in a clear-cut, highly-descriptive form. Everything he captures is sharply focused, developing an image over time. 

One might say, therefore, that Carter has rapidly evolved into the photographic equivalent of a visual statistician. Indeed, Galimberti’s projects emphasise a fine-tuned address of social, economic and cultural contexts without departing from the documentary tradition of photography. He sits down with NR to discuss his practice, thoughts and intentions for his ongoing work. 

The image of America has many iterations. Emanuel Leutze’s Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way (1860) and John Ghast’s image of the land as a holy ground in American Progress (1872) had a sharp promise of infinite beauty and pushed the land into one which was a spiritual resource. Then, in the 19th Century, Matthew Brady brought photography to the table with his documentation of the Civil War. Suddenly the land of the free appeared spoiled, the sunset decolourised, and soldiers soiled. His images changed the image of the US and, as put by Robert Hughes, changed the idea of what war was, ‘like TV for Vietnam’. Similarly, Gabriele Galimberti shifts the focus of reality into a newer, more contemporary slide. His work echoes conceptions of place and person in relation to their purpose as human beings and the meaning assigned to the products that surround them. He highlights an exquisite variety of human life in the most intimate of locations: a home is a spiritual resource, possessions act as conduits for human expression, and Galimberti changes the idea of who we are. 

You completed your project, The Ameriguns, three years ago, but you were just in the United States a few days ago. How did it feel to be back? 

I was in Washington DC for National Geographic, which is based there. They were having their annual meeting, so I stayed for five days before going to Los Angeles for a few meetings. Work-wise, it’s a good city. I always find good connections there, especially since I’ve been working for NatGeo since 2016; in their building, you can meet a lot of really interesting people who go in and out, whether photographers or explorers. When I started being a photographer, I wanted to work for National Geographic, so when that happened a few years ago, it was incredible. 

Do you travel there a lot? 

I actually come to the states pretty often, and I’ve been back a couple of times since I took my last picture of the series (in January 2020). I’ve been going there for the past 20 years, and it’s the place I’ve been to the most outside of Italy — I’ve probably been there more than 40 times. On my first road trip to America, I went to Houston and drove to Austin, and on the drive, I probably saw 20 gun shops on the sides of the roads. That stuck in my mind. I would see McDonald’s, and then a gun shop, and then Mcdonald’s and a gun shop. 

The late writer and critic A.A. Gill wrote in his book, To America with Love that ‘Guns in America’s story are a constant, a plot device, like coffee cups in European films. Guns are Hollywood’. Your work depicting Americans with their firearms sparked considerable conversation. How did that all start? 

I was in Kansas for a National Geographic shoot four years ago. On one of my days off in the middle of November, I was driving outside of Kansas City and saw a huge gun shop in the middle of nowhere. For the first time ever, I walked in. I was curious to see what was inside, and when I entered, I realised they didn’t just sell handguns but war-level firearms. I started to speak with some of the customers, and one of the customers was at the counter. I asked, ‘Is this the first gun you are buying?’ to which he replied, ‘no, of course not, I have more than sixty’. It came to me to ask, ‘can I come to take a picture of you and your guns’. The first photo was completely natural, without the project of Ameriguns in mind. A few days later, it happened again in Dallas, and I decided to do some research and immediately found out the numbers. 

Your images in this series conveyed these numbers more than just people and their guns. What numbers did they show? 

In America, there are more privately-owned guns than people. There are 1.3 guns per person in America, but then you discover that only one-third of Americans own guns; that means there are five guns per person who owns a gun. Then, counting all the privately-owned guns in the world, 48% of them are in the USA, which constitutes 4% of the global population. It’s a lot, so I thought, I want to photograph these numbers. 

You quite literally put the statistics and the facts on the floor. What were your intentions for the series? 

I wanted to understand more, so that’s what I did. After mass shootings, there would be waves of popularity for my photos, going onto Twitter and on the media. Mass shootings are a huge problem in America, but it’s not, in my opinion, the biggest problem related to firearms. Analysing the 2018 statistics, there were nearly 40,000 gun-related deaths, and 77 people were due to mass shootings; the larger number of people (more than 100 people dying every day from gunshots) is almost normal. But, with mass shootings, especially in schools, the media talks about it. 

Out of the 500 people I contacted, I ended up photographing around 50 people. I went pretty much everywhere in America and photographed in 32 states. There are many things I liked and photographed in the country, so it wasn’t the only project I made there, but one of the aspects of American society that triggered my curiosity was their relationship with guns. 

This bare-bones bluntness to the concept has translated throughout many of your series, including your work with National Geographic. How does this line of work with National Geographic differ from your personal practice? 

It’s really stimulating working for them. I’ve taken three assignments from National Geographic, and you work alongside the photo editor. You create a conversation with them, and when you reach an idea of how you want to create the story, then you go and shoot it. It’s one of the best work experiences I have had in my life. It is a magazine that cares a lot about photography and the quality of work they publish. The people there know what they do, and the whole team are great. 

Many of your compositions have an intimacy that glazes over nostalgia and incarnates a realism in subject matter and context. When did you begin formulating your distinctive style? 

The love I have for photographing people in their homes started in 2009-10. Over those two years, I was working for the Italian Magazine La Republica. I made a project, Couchsurfing, where I travelled for two years all over the world — over 50 countries, I think — and I used the Couchsurfing social network (a sort of Airbnb for free). I was hosted by people in 58 countries, reporting stories for the magazine from a person’s home, and every week had a new chapter in a different place. The story was about the host and their life for a week. I would take photos, maybe go to work with my host or visit the school with them and take photos. 

You take photographs that are about something. They are more than what they are of and step outside the realm of literal relation into a heightened contextual language. How did your view as narrator come into the picture with Couchsurfing

It was amazing because I got to do this work across Africa, Asia, Alaska and everywhere. That was the first time I pointed the camera towards normal people and normal lives. Beforehand, I was always looking to find special stories that were of interest and the media’s interest, but when I did Couchsurfing, I thought, wait for a second, this is interesting; it’s interesting watching normal people’s lives because you can learn a lot of things from them. I was super lucky to have the opportunity to do this project for two years in so many countries, meeting people from different religions, different cultures and different everything: each place gave me a different piece of something. I was so curious to see how these people lived, and I wouldn’t take my camera with me all the time; there were days I wouldn’t bring it with me because I was just living with these people. I never take pictures of somebody without knowing them, I need to understand something about them to photograph them. 

Does this stripping down to the essentials create a narrative? What makes you most engaged with your work? 

What I really love to do is photograph people where they live. I like to enter people’s houses and take photos of that person where they live in their environment, and that’s the common line in all my projects. But I also like to work in advertising and creating sets from zero. Sometimes, I’ve shot a few campaigns for clients where we created scenes out of nothing. In that case, it’s more of a collaboration where I am there as the photographer, and then there are set designers who fill the scene. With people in their homes, every time I do a project, I tell my subjects that they have to be patient. I’m not going there to take a snapshot, I’m coming to take one or two days of your life. It’s always a collaboration between me and the subject. 

Do you believe that your work is emotional? Is the human reaction simply an outcome of images created to solely inform? 

Yes, I think some of my stories are emotional. Everybody can have an emotional reaction to every story, so it depends upon the person. When I present my work, I always see people getting close to my work, and they do react. I’m happy to see people being emotional about what I do and what they say. Whether they are reading my books or at my presentations, it’s nice to feel that what you do has a sense of meaning. It means you are going in a good direction. 

What project makes you most emotional? 

My grandmother’s book, In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World. I grew up with my grandmother, and there are lots of memories related to that book. The reason I made the book was that, while I was travelling for my Couchsurfing project, my grandmother was extremely worried about the food I was eating. That was her only concern, and so I said, don’t worry, ‘I am going to have dinner with other grandmothers because they know how to feed me for sure’. So, I started taking these photos of recipes and of the grandmothers every week, and I was sending these photos to my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother would relax. And at the end, I looked over all these images and recipes and thought I could make a book out of them, so I did it. I think it’s my greatest success because they printed 25,000 copies of the book in English, and it sold out, and then we had 14 different editions in different languages. It’s weird because the book is a cookbook and not a photography book, and there are photos in it, but if you look for it in a shop, it is in the cooking section. I made it because it was a homage to my grandmother. I remember going back home to her and telling her about my trips and the food that I tried, and sometimes I would cook some of the recipes for her to try. 

Honing into your series Home Pharma, what was the impetus to capture the relationship between person and pill? Is this a very personal relationship? 

It’s personal because when you show the medicines you use or have in your house, you have them because you have certain needs or fears. It really opens the door to intimacy. That was a project I worked on for National Geographic when they were preparing an issue about Health. I proposed the idea of going to 20 countries and looking at what medicine people had in their homes. It was easier to ask people to show me their medicines rather than guns, but when you show such a thing, you say a lot about yourself and where you live. Certain countries had people that tended to rely on medicine a lot, but other countries had less trust in them. The places where I found strong relationships between medicine and people were France, Switzerland and the United States. It doesn’t happen as much in Africa or the Caribbean. 

Is it hard to find a balance between the intimate subjects (and their possessions) with their presentation? 

It was interesting to see that while I was shooting, people would lose their shyness and end up bringing out more and more of what they had in their medicine cabinets. It was a step-by-step process as people can be protective and not want to show you everything. It is an interesting way to measure shyness and fear. 

Your images are uncondescending and honest. Does their formal composition shift often? Do you still experiment? 

There’s a certain type of photography that I am very confident in, but I’ve worked on a few things that are outside of that. I worked on a project with National Geographic on the concept of ‘Genius’ and what it means to be a genius. The story was split into three chapters, divided by Albert Einstein, Picasso and Leonardo Da Vinci. How do you make stories of these people? You can’t take photos of them, so together with my photo editor and another photographer, we worked as a team to create a narrative with these three characters. It was really challenging, but I find challenges really fun. 

The photographs, as compositional and separate entities from their subjects, convey respect for the scene. The light and angles in your style express a vantage point that leaves room for clear sight and observation. For instance, the eye level of your subjects transfers between adults and children. Do you spend a large amount of time preparing for an image? 

I don’t take many photos. For a project like Couchsurfing, once I had the right picture, I could leave my camera at home and not take it out with me. Once I am satisfied with the portrait, the focus is on the story. I take photos of what I want and need for the story. When I find out what the image will be, I go looking for it, and when it’s found, I’m happy. With Ameriguns, I needed six or seven hours to create the scene; every single gun has to be in the right place, I needed to sort out the lighting, and then maybe I take 50 photos but build up the picture. 

How do people feel when they are placed on the scene? 

It’s a bit of a surprise for them. Most of the time, they are having fun. Something weird and unusual is happening, and they feel like they are a part of it. Most of the time, people think that when you ask, ‘can I take a picture of you’ it will be a quick snap, but when they have to do it with me, it’s a completely different thing. Some people don’t care if it takes five hours because they are having fun, and they like to be included in the process; for example, while we are setting up the picture, we could be having a conversation. In the process of creating photos, many things are happening and it’s a process with people together. 

You have been in more homes than, well, most people. And you are quite well travelled. Is immersing into lives and places fundamental for your current practice? How does it feel to be allowed to probe and surround yourself with varying lives? 

I’ve noticed that photography now is a language that connects people from everywhere. Everybody speaks that language, and you can look at an Instagram of somebody in China, not speak Chinese but understand something about that person. When I am with my subjects, and they see the lighting and process, they are curious because they also take photos every day, but they find it interesting how a professional does it. I like to interact with people in this way because I need to keep them happy to be there, especially if the shoot takes five hours. 

Do you use assistants for your projects? 

90% of the time, I’m by myself. I usually have a lot of equipment with me. When I shot Ameriguns, I had an assistant with me for 50% of the project, and he came with me for 20 days. We shared ideas sometimes on scenes and compositions, and I liked having somebody that was a part of my life already. In that case, it was because the scenes were very big. It wasn’t like Home Pharma, where everything was on the table, and I could do everything by myself. 

Does this change with commercial jobs? 

With commercial jobs, I always have one or two assistants, and on most of these jobs, there are quite a few people on set. It’s fun, but when you work on a set like that, 90% of the people are people you only just met. Even if I’m good at communicating with people, sometimes it’s not the same for others, and sometimes I have to work with people I don’t know for a few days, which is not as natural for me. But it’s part of the job. 

Do the impact of your photographs tend to raise a level of controversy? The Balenciaga scandal looks to have been clarified, and you are now finally absolved from culpability. How does that feel? 

It’s a sad story. It was the first time I made a campaign for a fashion brand, and it went so poorly. I was accused of being a paedophile for over two weeks everywhere in the world. They didn’t do anything to protect me, but now a few things are happening; I’m working with some of the media and talking to Balenciaga. I was trapped in something that was not my fault: I was there as a photographer. What they did with the second campaign (with the Supreme Court documents and books) was pretty weird, but a lot of people think I was the mind behind that too. I was not even there. For the first shoot, I was there for two days to take six photos of kids and objects; two of these objects were teddy bear bags. I don’t work in fashion, so when they gave me these bags, I thought they were ugly, ugly like punks. I didn’t see anything weird, but what happened later was incredible: I received over 5000 death threats and people calling me in the middle of the night. I was getting covered by shit, and nobody said a word about it. Now, it’s flipping over and is going in the other direction. I got a lot of positive attention from the major media, with interviews about it and people approaching me about documentaries discussing what happened. But it’s flipping to the other side. 

When it comes to the media and the public, it is quite interesting how even the credits on a shoot can scale a misleading representation of what a photographer’s role is. 

The problem was that they wanted my style of photo for the campaign. Children and toys and children with objects are something I have been shooting for 15 years, so it’s something that is clearly me. So with that vision, it is a lot more ‘me’ than Balenciaga in the eyes of the public. So, when the scandal came out, I think people needed to find somebody to blame, and since these photos are so close to what I have been doing for 15 years, they thought it was my mind behind the bags. When people had these reactions, Balenciaga erased everything from Instagram and the website and then published another campaign made together with Adidas, which was even worse because it felt like it somehow confirmed that there was a message behind these campaigns. It was unfortunate because everybody thought it was me behind the documents and both campaigns, even if I didn’t decide on a single detail about that campaign and was only at the first shoot. 

How does a commercial shoot run? Did the Balenciaga set involve you being the only one controlling the image? 

I was there with 25 other people around me, including the parents of the kids. Everybody was having fun and was there. I thought, OK, I trust these people, so I’ll take the picture. I didn’t see anything weird going on, and I can’t decide to take a photo of something just because I think it was ugly. I was already in Paris, and I already signed the contract. They said, ‘I want you to make the same style of photo for us but with kids and our collection’, so I said yes, because I knew they had bags and sunglasses and it was a commercial. So the first time I saw the collection was after I signed the contract and went to Paris. I had never seen it before, so I was there and saw these punky bags and everything else and the 25 people around me, and if they say the set is OK, then I trust these people and take the picture. I didn’t see anything weird. When something like that is put in front of you, you think, ew, this is ugly. But that’s it. It just looks like a little monster. My nephew is seven or eight years old and plays with monsters, and they are super ugly, but if I put that monster together with Balenciaga’s bags, they would look alike. 

How do you feel about the idea of cancel culture and people being influenced by mass media? 

The media played a big role because many major media sources created stories that were a lot bigger than what it was, and they triggered an atomic bomb. Balenciaga made a huge mistake, especially with how they handled the whole thing. It was weird because they sued a company, then the set designer, and then admitted it was wrong, and they wouldn’t be suing anyone. Even the communication with the scandal was weird, they stopped communicating with me during these days, and I was trying to reach them as I was getting death threats and wanted them to do something. Anyway, it was a sad story, but it’s luckily over at the moment. 


  1. Kitija Shiroma, 29 years old – Honolulu, Hawaii. Kitija Shiroma, Mae to her friends, owns the biggest firing range in the Hawaiian Islands. She owns it with her stepfather, a former military man whom she thinks of as her dad. It was he who instilled in her a passion for firearms. She was 10 at the time and had just moved to Honolulu from her birthplace, Thailand. “I used to watch Hollywood movies. Like any kid, I wanted to learn more about what I saw, so my father would take me hunting with him, up in the mountains. People hunt a lot around here. There are deer and pigs—it’s a rich land. That’s when I started shooting.”  
  2. Noel Hawthorne, 5 years old – South Dallas, Texas. Noel is 100% Texan! His ideas are already very clear, he wants to be a pilot! Play only with airplanes, of all sizes and sometimes with the playstation but only with a flight simulator. His favorite game is to put the little men in lego with the big boing that his father gave him and then make them slide to the bottom of the garden where there is a small pond. He imagines taking the legos on vacation to the lake, then after giving them a bath he puts them back in the plane and takes them home.
  3. Taha, 4 years old – Palestinian Fields, Beirut – Lebanon. Thaha is Palestinian but was born in Beirut, Lebanon where both he and his family have almost no rights. They live in a kind of shantytown with a thousand other people and they all come from Palestine. In order to have water and electricity, the people who live there are forced to illegally connect to the systems that pass nearby, because even these rights are denied to them. Taha doesn’t have many games and when I asked him what his favorite was, he had no doubts and replied: the racing car.
  4. Allenah Lajallab, 4 years old – El Nido – Palawan Island, Philippines. She was born and raised in El Nido, a small town north of the island of Palawan in the Philippines. There are no hospitals in El Nido and she was born at home. Her games are just puppets, her favorite is the orange rabbit, but only because she loves color, while what she doesn’t like is the white bear because it gets dirty too easily.
  5. Floyd and Lesia McMillin, both 49 years old – Topeka, Kansas. Floyd and Lesia McMillin’s enormous home is a showcase of hunting trophies. Stuffed deer, squirrels, ducks and geese, eyes frozen in time, stare as visitors pass through each room. There are quite a few—more than one per room, so at least 20. The sole exception is the bedroom, hung with portraits but otherwise strangely bare. It is here, however, that we find the guns that were used to hunt the animals. Most aren’t loaded, the couple say. Only one or two are ready to be fired at a moment’s notice, “in the defense of the family.” Their collection consists of 65 pieces, and there’s always something new. Each month, the McMillins spend roughly $2,500 on ammunition, accessories and new additions. Their passion for guns has been in their blood since childhood. Both come from families of hunters, people who would spend every moment of leisure time escaping into the great outdoors in search of prey. Floyd first shot a gun with his father, when he was 6 years old. At age 12, he was already spending much of his time pursuing game. At 17, he began participating in shooting contests. Lesia, on the other hand, had never fired a weapon until she was 46, when her husband bought her a Sig Sauer 380 and taught her to use it at the firing range. Until then, while on hunting trips firstly with her father and then her husband, she had only ever given tips and instructions. The McMillins own a very busy gun shop. “65% of our new customers are women who’ve never shot a gun before. Many have gone through something that’s made them want to learn how to defend themselves. Most of them say that, between the time they called the police and the time the officers got there, the worst had already happened. A gun gives them more power, more security.”
  6. Latoya Piper, 32 years old – Huntsville, Alabama. Not many people can say they stopped a mass shooting, but Latoya Piper is one of them. It was the night of December 31, 2018, and she was working as a security guard at the entrance to a club. Two men began to argue, then one of them went back to his car, took out an AK-47 and tried to go into the club, shooting. Latoya responded swiftly. She fired once and he shot back. Then she fired again and was able to stop him. The man did not die. It was Latoya herself who called the first responders who took him to the hospital. That episode only strengthened her convictions about the importance of carrying a gun. “I encourage victims of violent crimes to learn to use guns, to buy them and practice with them. It only takes one bullet to stop a mass shooting,” she says with confidence. Latoya’s familiarity with firearms runs deep. She practically grew up in the sheriff’s office where her father worked. She was 11 when he taught her how to shoot. At just over 20 she was in Iraq, serving in the military. Today, as a veteran, she believes there should be no distinction between ordinary citizens and members of the armed forces. “There’s no sort of firearm that people should be banned from buying. Anything the military has, individuals should be able to have, too.”  I like military-style weapons because they are more powerful. You’re the one who controls the explosion in your hands, the one who directs it. It’s having the ability to control something that powerful with my own two hands. If, tomorrow, the government decided that some of my guns were illegal, I don’t think I’d turn them in. I think I’d ask them to come and get them, and I doubt that they would.  If I don’t have a gun with me, I feel naked.
  7. Dimitri Procofieff, 22 years old – Geneva, Switzerland. To reach Dimitri’s family’s home, a sort of sanctuary for the ecologically-aware wayfarer perched high in the mountains above Geneva, travelers must first traverse over 6 miles of dense forest. It is a very large house, constructed almost entirely of wood and set on the shore of a small lake with a clear view of Mont Blanc. There are no neighbors, no connection with the rest of the world. Everything is zero-environmental-impact, recycled and sustainable. Their energy is produced by wind turbines and solar panels, rainwater is collected and circulated into the house and heat is generated using wood from the nearby forest (but only from trees that are ready to be cut, of course). It’s thanks to that wood that I ended up couchsurfing with Dimitri and his family. Every year they organize a get together, three days when friends, acquaintances and couchsurfers recruited from far and near help cut all the wood needed to heat the house through the winter. Think of it as a sort of jamboree, where you work during the day and at night you party with people from just about everywhere. Dimitri’s also a photographer and, because our paths had crossed once before, I knew about his family’s summer tradition. So it was that I decided to go and claim one of the numerous mattresses he puts out for visiting couchsurfers. Their home may be simple, but it’s very big and Dimitri, his mother and her partner open their door to whoever passes through. Dimitri’s incredible hospitality may be, in part at least, a consequence of his own nomadic history. Born in France in 1989 to a family of Russian origin, he spent his first 15 years moving from one place to another: Paris, Moscow, Tbilisi, Sri Lanka and Belgrade Ð the place where finally, at the age of fifteen, he started to feel at home. He doesn’t have many memories of his early years, apart from the fact that, for some strange reason, his family’s kitchens always seemed to catch fire. When his parents went to live in Senegal, he headed to Geneva, which is where he lives today, surrounded by friends and couchsurfers. As he tells me, «The thing I’m most proud of is having maintained real relationships with friends whom, unfortunately, I only rarely see.”
  8. Eric Arnsberger, 30 years old and Morgan Gagnier. 22 years old – Lake Forest, California. During his eight years in the Army, Eric Arnsberger was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosovo, Russia, Vietnam and several different countries in Africa. He’s been a policeman in New Orleans, one of America’s most violent cities, and he grew up in Florida, where gangs were rife and very mean. “When I was a kid, I experienced all kinds of violence. I was stabbed, beaten up, robbed. Then I went to war. I saw what happens when someone else points a gun at you. I had to shoot at people and they shot at me, hundreds of times.” Now, back in the civilian world, Eric teaches people how to handle guns and shoot them safely. He lives in California, and he knows very well that many of his neighbors disapprove of his lifestyle and of what he does. “When I go off to work dressed in a certain way, I can see that people are judging me.” Morgan, the woman with him in the portrait, is not one of them. She’s a trainer in a gym, and she fell in love with him through following him on Instagram.  Eric never goes out unarmed and has a predilection for military-type firearms. “I’ve never bought a complete gun. I always buy the parts, then make myself a custom piece. I learned how to build guns in the Army. One of my jobs was to test and assess firearms, and that’s how I fell in love with them. If some new law made my guns illegal tomorrow, I think I’d break them down, hide them and go off somewhere else.”  First weapon: .22-caliber rifle.
  9. Boonlom Thongpor, 69 years old –  Bangkok, Thailand. Six big photos with all the members of her family keep Boonlom company every time she prepares a new delicacy among the cookers of her kitchen. A 69-year-old mother of two daughters and grandmother of the young Mai (in the photo between the hi-fi speakers), all her life spent in Bangkok, Boonlom considers herself the best cook of her neighbourhood. Until a few years ago she used to run a small street restaurant, the typical kind you find everywhere around the South-East of Asia, where people eat simple and quick (but often very tasty) dishes, standing or sitting on stalls on the street borders. At present her restaurant is run by one of her daughters, who has changed it slightly: in what functioned as their old garage, her daughter has arranged four squared tables and people can finally eat properly, sitting at them! The average cost of a full meal at her restaurant rarely goes beyond two euros!
  10. Wholl-Lima Balthazan, 56 years old, her mother Silemoieux Charikable, 76 years old, and her son Lozma Astrel, 20 years old, in their house, Port au Prince, Haiti. Wholl-Lima works as a secretary for a Haitian cultural organization called Fokal. She uses traditional Haitian medicine to cure herself and her loved ones. It is mainly leafs that can be found in local markets or provided by a ÒMedsen FeyÓ, a leaf doctor.
  11. Julia Enaigua, 71 years old Ð La Paz, Bolivia. Julia was born more than 70 years ago in a little village on the shores of the Titicaca Lake. In her family everybody was, and is still now, a fisherman or a farmer. Indeed, she grew up first playing and then working in the fields, too. When she was 25 she got married and moved to La Paz, the city where her husband came from. Since that moment her job has changed: from a farmer into a seller of vegetables. She has got a small stall in one of the many markets in the city. Every day she wakes up very early, takes a bus to go to the countryside outside the city, buys huge bags of vegetables from the local farmers, goes back to the city by bus and, after arranging her stall for the day, she is at the market until she sells almost all the vegetables. Unfortunately, nobody is waiting for her home now, her husband died a few years ago and her children live in another house. However, itÕs a pleasure that every weekend they both gather at her house and she can cook for them and her 5 grandchildren. 
  12. Jean Toussaint, 28 years old, is a policeman in the National Police Force of Haiti. He has built the house where he’s photographed in the suburbs of the city of Jacmel, Haiti. Like many Haitians he does not own many medicines and usually buys the single pills from street vendors if he needs them. He has here some cough syrup and some Paracetamol.

Elizabeth Glaessner

Elizabeth Glaessner, Ocean Halo, 2021

Therapeutic gateways to an inner world, Elizabeth Glaessner uncovers the realms of the psyche conjuring up a surreal universe in a constant state of metamorphosis.

Elizabeth Glaessner (born 1984 in Palo Alto, California) is an American painter and artist whose work express meanings beyond the figures she paints. Inspired by heroes of symbolism such as Edvard Munch, Odilon Redon, personal memories and art history, Glaessner places the visible at the service of the subconscious and re-contextualise mythological elements in her dream-like paintings. With her distinct use of colour, such as the recurrent visceral acid green as well as her technique of dispersing pure pigments with acrylics, oil and water, Glaessner creates visually striking works that tap into our primordial unconscious, opening a world where surroundings and people are intuitively blurred. There is a sense of fluidity and openness in Glaessner’s work, inspired from her childhood memories and an understanding that the world as it is today cannot be limited by binary thinking. Glaessner thus pushes the conventional societal boundaries and moral codes, and uncovers the realms of her psyche conjuring up a surreal universe in a constant state of metamorphosis. 

Therapeutic gateways to an inner world, Glaessner’s paintings are indirectly a reflection of our time and a window to possible futures.

When did you start painting? Were there family influences at all? 

My mom studied and taught art, so I started drawing and painting at a young age. Her dad  was an art lover as was my grandmother on my dad’s side. Her twin brother Friedreich was a textile designer and my great aunt Mitzi was a watercolor painter. 

Elizabeth Glaessner, War in the Middle Ages, 2022

You are originally from Houston, Texas but moved to New York. How have those two distinct landscapes influenced your practice? 

I grew up in Houston, my parents moved there from California when I was 3, and I moved to New York in 2007.  Houston is a large sprawling city with lots of space. It’s hot and humid and the vegetation and landscape is pretty swampy. It also flooded a lot so it’s a pretty wet climate on the east side of Texas. Lots of frogs and lizards. I’m not sure how much has changed over the years with all the new development. New York is much more fast-paced. Everything is compact and efficient. I love being able to commute without a car and my community is very important here. I’ve gained so much from being able to visit friends’ studios and having access to so many galleries and museums. But it’s very different working here than in a place like Houston and it’s getting more difficult with out of control rent and limited space. There’s always a tradeoff.

Elizabeth Glaessner, Earth Bound, 2022

There is always a sense of fluidity and openness in your work, on different levels, pushing away moral codes and societal limitations. Bodies and genders are interchanged and intertwined. Why those particular thematics?

I grew up in a pretty chaotic environment. When my parents divorced, my mom met an ex nun who moved in with her. The nun was obviously very religious and used fear tactics and violence to maintain power and control. We grew up in two very different realities. My dad’s parents were Jewish and escaped the Holocaust from Vienna so he grew up agnostic and didn’t impose religion on us. Eventually the nun left, I remember feeling overwhelmed with a sense of freedom. So I learned pretty early on the destructive effects of imposed morality, fear and repression and also became aware of our incredible ability to adapt and change.

«I also quickly became aware that we’re quite complicated and can’t thrive in a world limited by binary thinking.»

Elizabeth Glaessner,
Professional Mourners, 2020

Your work feels like an invite into your psyche and dystopian spaces in which the subconscious and conscious coexist together. Do you see your practice as a therapeutic tool and thus liberatory? 

Yes, initially painting was a way for me to escape but also try and understand a surreal and oppressive childhood full of contradiction. I started seeing a therapist at a young age but couldn’t talk about anything.

«Drawing and painting was a tool to deal with experiences in a non-literal way that I wasn’t ready to communicate verbally.»

It’s a survival tool for many people. I’m lucky that I had that.

Elizabeth Glaessner, Misfortunes of the City, 2022

You have cited Edvard Munch, Odilon Redon as references. Who/What else inspired your style?

The first works of art that I spent time with as a kid in the museum of fine arts in Houston were Bougereau’s the elder sister (but just for the feet), Derain’s landscapes with red trees and Turrell’s tunnel. These aren’t artists that I look at now but I think the effect that they had on me at a time when I was forming memories is relevant to subconscious decision making in painting now. I have looked at and continue to look at so much art throughout history – it plays a large role in how I conceive of my paintings so it’s very difficult to just name a few. I look at different artists for different reasons. For example, Cranach the Elder and Carroll Dunham because of how far they are able to take one idea or theme and stretch it with subtle formal variations. Or someone like Chris Ofili or Francesco Clemente for color or feeling, Birgit Jurgenssen for the body and so on.

Elizabeth Glaessner, Escapism, 2022

Some of your favourite readings? What is something/someone you have recently discovered and has marked you?

I’m currently reading Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. I think he’s a brilliant writer. I also loved Never Let me Go. Haruki Murakami is one of my favorites. I’ve recently been thinking about Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, especially “uses of the erotic: the erotic as power” and how she writes about language in «Poetry is not a Luxury». And my friend Aisling Hamrogue recently suggested I read a chapter in A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari called «One or several Wolves» discussing the body without organs which made an impression.

The colours used in your paintings offer such vibrant hues. Where does this palette come from?

It’s incredible how personal and associative color is. I have visceral reactions to certain color combinations. It’s often the thing that causes me to repaint a painting – if the color isn’t working with the content, I’ll start over with a different palette. Usually the under color shifts the tone of whatever is on top which can lead to unexpected combinations. There’s an element of intuition but I also think about symbolic associations of color – both my own which have been developed through repetition as well as learned associations. 

Elizabeth Glaessner, Charley Horse, 2022

Some colours are more recurring than others, such as acid green. There is something really appealing to it but it also feels like a warning. Why that green in particular?

I’ve been drawn to that green since I was a kid. I’m sure it comes from many places. Houston is a swampy green city and I was always outside. I was very close with my grandmother who introduced me to painters such as Klimt and Kirchner who also use that green. It’s a color that I feel comfortable with.

«That acidic quality oozes an uneasiness which I think is reflective of what it feels like to be alive.»

Elizabeth Glaessner, Heat Map, 2022

Which mediums other than painting would you like to explore with? 

There is an endless amount of learning I still have to do within painting. I’ve done silk painting – which is something I’d like to do again at some point. I’d also like to explore paper making, priming my surfaces in different ways, experimenting with different mediums when I’m pouring paint. I’d like to do some monotypes in a print studio and try different printmaking techniques. I’d love to play around with clay more but painting is keeping me pretty occupied at the moment. 

Elizabeth Glaessner, Sphinx and Friends, 2022

Could you tell us about the process you go through when you create? 

I usually start with several works on paper that are done pretty intuitively. Some drawing, some ink and gouache. First I pour and then use the color fields to find forms which I meld with preconceived ideas so there’s a balance of control and freedom. I look at these works on paper as I’m making paintings on canvas on linen, whether it’s the color and theme, or just the composition or energy. The surface of the larger paintings is often pretty built up because I change so much as I’m working. Sometimes the composition will work on a smaller scale but doesn’t feel right when I’m working large. I usually get to a point about halfway through where I feel like I’ve completely lost the painting and then have to make some big move to totally change it and dig my way out. But I’ve learned that that is just part of how it’s made so I trust it.

What are you working on at the moment?

I just finished my solo show “Dead Leg” which opens September 3rd at Perrotin in Paris. I had a pretty busy year so I’m looking forward to traveling a bit, taking some time to set up my studio again, finishing some books I started, doing some color exercises and starting a new series of works on paper. 

The theme of this issue is IN OUR WORLD. Are your paintings a reflection of our time or are they a window to the future you envision?

I think they’re both. 

«Definitely a reflection of our time which wouldn’t exist without the past and which hints at possible futures.»


Artworks · Courtesy of Elizabeth Glaessner and Perrotin

Celeste Galanda

The Dark of Matinée


Model · Yeray at Elite Model
Photography · Celeste Galanda
Fashion · Francisco Ugarte
Hair Stylist and Makeup · Regina Khanipova
Photography Assistant · Patricia Vizcaino Villalón


  1. Full look KENZO
  2. Jacket DSQUARED, Necklace PALM ANGELS
  3. Full look BOTTEGA VENETA
  4. Jacket and trousers JW ANDERSON x MONCLER, Shirt BOTTEGA VENETA, T-shirt RAF SIMONS, Shoes CAMPER LAB
  5. Sweater and shorts JW ANDERSON x MONCLER, Necklace PALM ANGELS, Shoes CAMPER LAB
  6. Sweater JW ANDERSON and Jeans VERSACE

Ciro Galluccio



Model · Tilda Jonnson at Brave Models
Photography · Ciro Galluccio
Fashion · Alessandro Ferrari
Production · Anna Baldocchi at Ro-of
Casting · Isadora Banaudi
Hair · Alessia Bonotto
Makeup · Martina D’andrea
Photography Assistant · Fabio Firenze
Fashion Assistant · Francesco Giuliani


  3. Slippers ALANUI x SUICOKE
  4. Dress KRIZIA
  5. Jumpsuit Vintage
  6. Shirt OUR LEGACY
  7. Tank top SCHIESSER

Illya Goldman Gubin

Exploring the ambiguities of life through the rapid shifts the present feels

The first three-dimensional, physical object that multidisciplinary artist Illya Goldman Gubin made comments on the everyday obstacles creatives face in a world dominated by consumerist logic. From the descriptions, several images may come up – glitching computer screens, broken doors, burned bridges, thrashed rooms, or maxed out credits cards – but Gubin built his storyline around an object famed for the hierarchy metaphor: a ladder. “The sculpture is a physical manifestation of the internalized struggle to climb the proverbial social ladder, our personal hopes, dreams, and challenges manifesting in a sculpture of rough materiality,” says the artist. Soon, viewers will find out the interconnectedness of everything Gubin works on.

An atelier and an art shop define the homes of Gubin. The first sees the continuation of his artworks, a deviation from a fashion line or merch and a journey towards works of art created from works of art. “The greed for a dialogue between clothes and artworks becomes a study. The clothes are created with the Japanese idea «Ichi-go, ichi-e». This means ‘One Time, One Meeting’ which reminds us of the ephemeral nature of everything around us,” the brand states. It lies upon the idea that one can never dip their toes into the same lake twice as the water flows – always moving, never settling.

From this ethos, the atelier comes to life. It breaks the binary continuum of thinking and feeling, science and mysticism, tradition and innovation, handmade and luxury goods, and perfection and imperfection. Gubin’s installations underline the complexity of human consciousness to unearth the depth of self-understanding. He borrows terms from Judaism and infuses them into his words, serving as reminiscences to the cultural imprint. For the artist, the culmination of multiple perspectives, fused with self-reflection, gives birth to a realm of new sanity, a marriage between codes of the past and newly acquired knowledge.

Gubin not only explores the ambiguities of modern life, challenged by the rapidly shifting conditions of the present, but also creates multi-layered reflections of everyday perception. He transforms paradigms, materials, space, and time into works that usher the audience into a sensorial experience, an invitation to think, feel, see, hear, and meditate. From that cocoon of meditation, Gubin captures the zen and essence of perpetuity and mold them into sculptures, canvasses, furniture, bags, bowls, t-shirts, lamps, soils and so much more. His body of works remains in a constant state of flux, moving in and out of the spirit to understand the self, to open the mind and heart, and to liberate one’s spirit.

For NR, he celebrates his voice and visions as a multidisciplinary artist through a tone he knows best: poetic, philosophical, polished, and pragmatic.

NR: Where and how did your fascination with “breaking the binary continuum of thinking and feeling, science and mysticism, and blurring the line between tradition and innovation, handmade and luxury goods, perfection and imperfection” start? What personal experiences nudged you to found I G G?

IGG: It started from questioning my inner self and finding answers in different areas and philosophies. I wanted to bring ideas and questions together. I wanted to start an open dialogue.

«It is all done for energy and the closeness to the earth.»

Your atelier is divided into an art shop and a catalog. Starting with the art shop, you reiterate that “it is not a fashion line or merch, but works of art that are created from works of art.” Is there a reason you’ve stressed this?

Yes. I try to push the boundaries of a clothing piece by combining and intertwining it with my artistic practice which, as the result, becomes a significant enlargement of my work.

For instance, the surface of the Struktur shoes is ‘hand-worked’ with the same medium as the ‘Struktur’ artworks. Additionally, the shoes are physically attached to a ‘Struktur’ artwork, which has an indirect invitation to be removed by the owner by force. The end result is a state of wearable artwork.

As for your catalog, I am looking at your first project (“Ladder”) and your recent (“Karton Vase”). Between these years, what changes did you make and experience in your artistic, creative, and business style?

My mind became more balanced. My visions are clearer, and the narratives become more conscious. An artist is a student of his own studies trying to find an answer to a question of one’s personal experience.  

How do you perceive timelessness during the shifting conditions of our present?

My own beliefs, interests, and paradigms are guiding my open-mindedness. Timelessness is still influenced by the Zeitgeist;

«the only difference arises from how you process the flow of information from the observation to the understanding, a contemporary way of thinking.»

Could you share a few projects that resonate well with you, projects that seem to converse with you? What are their backstories?

My latest projects cannot be really examined separately. They all share a similar spirit, a similar beginning, and a similar aim. My aim is always to heal my spectators’ precoded opinion and/or thinking which is given by their experience.

My ‘Karton’ furniture evokes a non-useable feeling, a forgotten childish dream. ‘Profil’ sculptures give spectators a distinctive look of regular fabrics hanging from the ceiling. My ‘Juxtaposition’ piece revokes a human act of protecting objects for their longevity.

All of these do not appear to be what they look like at first glance. I always encourage the spectators to interact with my work.

«I believe that only through the physical dialogue can my work achieve an ending. The idea is bigger than the outcome.»

In line with our theme Celebration, how do you celebrate yourself as an artist, a designer, and a creative? What joys outside your work do you live up?

To be honest, it feels very difficult to acknowledge the point where one can put a checkmark on the work. The work is always in the process. However, I am trying to learn to celebrate every day. The sum of the process is the outcome of the work. Living in the present can help one to realize happiness. 

Is there anything that we should look forward to from you in the upcoming months?

At this time of answering the questions, I am in Los Angeles. In April, I will participate in a large group show at Side Gallery where I am excited to show my ‘Karton’ furniture series.

When I think further from here, I do not know what is coming next. Probably this is being in the now?


Images · Illya Goldman Gubin

Sylke Golding

«every day is a plus – to wake up and be healthy, and to find myself in this unique position»

I speak to NR cover star, Sylke Golding, over the phone a few days after the shoot. How did it go, I ask? “It was great! A great little team. I always love it when they pick me,” she says. “At this point it’s such a plus.” Sylke started modelling at the age of 18, scouted – as she explains below – when living in Sweden. Now, age 55, Sylke is still modelling. After a break of a couple of decades in between, that is. Over the past couple of years, the fashion industry seems to have opened itself up to more diverse representations – widening the pool, as Sylke says. She had begun noticing this shift in the kinds of models she was seeing, not long before modelling came calling (again). It started around four years ago, when a colleague’s photographer friend was looking for models for an editorial with mature models. After came the runways (for amongst other brands, Deveaux), the street style spots (on Vogue) and the fashion editorials in print. Sylke’s certainly got the look – but as she ponders, what is that? “The way my bone structure is, because of the way the camera picks it up through the lens?”

It’s curious listening to Sylke discuss the similarities and differences between her experiences of the fashion industry as a young woman, versus in her fifties. She describes the former experience of being about fitting a certain mould – and a quick stalk on Sylke’s Instagram brings up some throwback snaps from back in the day. There’s a shot by Patrick Demarchelier and an outtake from a Grazia cover by Steve Landis; it’s true, her bone structure really does work with the light. But what really shines through in her modelling work from today (and again, reflecting on what Sylke discusses below) is a certain joie de vivre – a smile that’s incredibly infectious, where great cheekbones can’t be replicated.

As important as someone like Sylke’s visible presence marks a shift in the fashion industry – the grey hair, the lines, the signs of ageing – it seems that she also really enjoys just doing the job. She speaks of how, though photographers more often shoot digitally these days, the recent resurgence of interest in film is interesting too. Sylke describes the “raspiness” that comes with film – “I love the dirt on it, so to speak, and the hue”. And there’s a different set-up that comes with film, too. “Now it’s all digital and usually you see it on a little laptop, and you get an idea but, [this shoot] was all on film. So, you take the first picture to check the light, take a few digital shots, but then you’re kind of in the dark. Sometimes, you just have to trust the process.” I ask Sylke if she finds it easy to trust the process, to trust the team. “It’s funny you ask that because, in my regular life, generally, I need to have control and I always try to think ahead and say, ‘What can I do?’” But with modelling, it’s about switching off – “it’s kind of freeing,” she says. Going with the flow, especially given the past two years of the pandemic, and being able to model breaks up the monotony of everyday.

NR: Is there anything you take with you to a shoot – something that never changes, regardless of the different jobs, teams or concepts you’re working with?

SG: Yes – it’s being me. All I can bring to the table is me. You know, sometimes I think, what are the expectations? But as much as I think, “Why me?” I’m also thinking, “Why not me?” I always try to remember that, with social media and my agency, [clients] pick me [for who I am]. I’m turning 56 in July, and although the modelling pool has gotten much larger because there’s more inclusivity, my age group is still much less represented. So, when [a client] picks me, then it’s like, they want me. I don’t know where I read this recently, but I read it and it sort of stuck with me, that people don’t change, they only become more of themselves. I think there is a lot of truth in that. I can be inspired by people, but then it still has to be translated into something because otherwise, we are all just copies, you know? It doesn’t work – and I think the camera knows that as well. You know, if you’re not comfortable within yourself, the camera will read it – and the people around you will read it. So I love that challenge of expressing you, and to answer your question, that doesn’t change.

«That is the challenge – to be actually me, to give them who I am.»

NR: Something you mentioned before we spoke on this call was the idea of destiny – and in relation to what you’ve just said, I wondered how that is realised for you?

SG: Destiny ties into when I first became a model. I lived in Sweden at the time, my family had left East Germany when I was 14. And then I was scouted when I was 18 and I started modelling in Italy and Paris. [Being scouted] came at a time when I really desired change and wanted to leave Sweden. But back then, there were only really one or two ‘moulds’ of model. I worked with a lot of beautiful young women, and we were all trying to fit that mould. If you didn’t fit that mould, there was work but it was much harder to reach a point where you could work consistently. And then when you reached 25 or 26, it was done. It really slowed down to the point that you couldn’t help but see the messages: “Look, there’s a door and it says exit. See it?” So then I just stopped at that point and turned away from modelling. I had dropped out of university to pursue modelling, and [then] I had to find out what I wanted to do next. I did a bunch of jobs, a couple of decades went by – you know, the quote un-quote ‘regular life’. And I never really thought about modelling again. But in the past five years, I started seeing little signs that something was afoot. Friends would say, “Maybe you should model!” But I was like, no. No, I should not. And

«lo and behold, modelling came and found me again; I was asked by a photographer who was looking for a mature model.»

And then I was like, “Alright, what the hell? Why not?” I did it, it hit social media, and then it just happened. So I often find myself thinking about destiny; I feel like both times modelling came, I didn’t actively pursue it. It pursued me. I would say that the only way I would do it again is if it came and knocked on my door. And I said it many times. So, lately, I’m really of the mind that you should be careful what you say because once you say things out into the universe, it has a way of responding. And it’s for the good, it’s for the bad – whatever the energies you put out there, you will attract them. So, I wonder how actively, or subconsciously, did I will this to happen?

NR: Do you feel like your visibility is as important for you as it is for other women to see?

SG: I hope so because you see women, or society on a whole, struggling to accept age – women growing older, men growing older. I see men colouring their grey out and I think it looks ridiculous because you can see it. I try not to judge, but it’s just, you can see it. I rationalise the process for myself, and it makes me stronger, which is that in the end, people are scared of dying. And we all, in some way, have to get to grips with that. And I think the problem is that, of course we want to postpone it, but that’s all we’re really doing. I want to encourage everyone to find a way to accept it because I’m trying just the same to accept this. So, I hope that [my visibility] helps. I hope changes in the industry are here to stay; that they are truly opening up, and that the pool remains larger, and become larger. And that everybody is included because, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Who’s to say who is beautiful or not? I want [to push for] acceptance of what is real; I strive for that. I want to be honest; I want it to be real – to reframe that into a positive. And I hope it encourages people.

«I hope [my experience] tells the story that, you know, you could be happy with growing older. You can be fulfilled and satisfied.»

NR: The industry is notoriously gravitated towards youth. From your experience of being a model at a young age, before coming back to the industry later on, has much changed?

SG: It has, and it hasn’t. The first shoot I had, it was like nothing has changed – the hair, the make-up. The process of getting ready hasn’t changed. It’s still the same creative process. The pool has gotten a lot bigger. I work with models that could be my children; if I had children, they could be my children. Back then,

«I think it was more about fitting a mould, and it was less about who you were as a person.»

And now, it’s much more like, “Oh I like them. I think they could really contribute to the story.” I think that’s a huge change – they want character, you know. They don’t just want a prescribed performance from the model. I think it’s much more collaborative, even from the model; it’s like, “Show us who you are.” Overall, it’s the same industry. It’s the fashion industry – it’s the same. Same exciting, crazy journey and I think it’s full of people who just love excitement because every day, you pretty much meet new people and it’s a new scene.

NR: On your Instagram, there’s a post where you say that it’s a myth that age is just a number. And going back to what you said about how, as you age, you become closer to who you truly are – is that what you meant about this ‘myth’?

SG: You don’t have to be confined by the number of your age, I know what people mean by that, I think it’s well-meaning. And I used it too in the beginning, but then I thought about it. It isn’t just a number. Age is about acceptance, it’s not just a number because I’ve got here. I’m lucky to be here, every day is a plus – to wake up and be healthy, and to find myself in this unique position. And I’ve said this before and I think it holds true: every spot, every wrinkle tells a story.


Photography · RICKY ALVAREZ
Creative Direction · JADE REMOVILLE
Fashion Assistant · JOAO PEDRO ASSISS

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