Oliviero Toscani

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Oliviero Toscani (2007)

Oliviero Toscani (born February 28, 1942 in Milan ) is an Italian photographer . He became known for his controversial design of the Benetton advertising campaigns from 1983 onwards. Toscani left Benetton after an advertising campaign in 2000 that showed portraits of prison inmates sentenced to death in the USA. Toscani worked for Benetton again from late 2017 to early 2020.


Toscani's father, Fedele Toscani , was a photo reporter for Corriere della Sera and gave his son his first camera at the age of six. From 1961 to 1965 Toscani studied photography and graphics at the Zurich School of Applied Arts . Toscani then worked for fashion magazines such as Elle and Vogue . During stays in New York he met Andy Warhol, who became his role model.

Toscani is an honorary member of the Association of Freelance Photo Designers (BFF).

His photos with anorexics were occasionally criticized and he was accused of dealing with criticism in a relativistic way.

Career as a commercial photographer

Oliviero Toscani (2008)

The Jesus Jeans

Toscani's design for an advertising campaign for the Italian brand Jesus Jeans from 1973 first attracted attention. The poster shows a woman's bottom clad in tight hot pants , the reverse side of a portrait, so to speak. The ambiguous slogan was 'Chi mi ama mi segua' (Eng. He who loves me, follows me), a saying attributed to Jesus Christ .

The years at Benetton

The Italian fashion brand Benetton planned its international expansion in the early 1980s. In 1983, Toscani was hired to design the associated advertising campaign. In the years that followed, both became internationally known for their controversial and polarizing campaigns. The first posters showed children of all skin colors dressed in colorful Benetton sweaters under the slogan 'All the colors of the world'. From 1985, Benetton changed its brand name to United Colors of Benetton.

Racism was repeatedly the subject of Toscani's pictures, just as he was repeatedly accused of racism for this reason. Toscani's breast photograph of a black woman suckling a white baby (campaign from autumn / winter 1989) was particularly controversial in this regard.

In the early 1990s, Toscani used several press photographs for the Benetton advertising campaigns. For example, he used a photo by Thérèse Frare for the spring / summer 1992 campaign, which shows the dying AIDS activist David Kirby and his grieving family, reminiscent of a picture of Pièta . Other posters from the series show an overloaded refugee ship off the Albanian coast or the corpse of a shot mafioso and his grieving family.

These socially critical and controversial images continued in later campaigns. For example in the photographs of naked body parts with the stamp 'HIV positive' or the picture of the bloody shirt with a bullet hole of a fallen soldier in the Bosnian war . Toscani left Benetton following an advertising campaign in 2000 showing portraits of prison inmates sentenced to death in the United States. Benetton co-founder Luciano Benetton had previously publicly distanced himself from him.

The years after Benetton

The exhibition Osteoporosis - A Photographic Vision by Oliviero Toscani was organized by the German Green Cross e. V. designed and implemented with Oliviero Toscani. In cooperation with the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), it was shown in various countries to draw attention to problems in the care of those affected and personal prevention. From May 19 to June 12, 2005 Toscani's Photographic Insights were shown for the first time in Germany . The patron was the then Federal Minister of Health Ulla Schmidt .

On the occasion of the Milan Fashion Week 2007 Toscani presented revealing pictures of the anorexic model Isabelle Caro in order to draw attention to the problem of the obsession with slimness with the campaign “No-Anorexia” and to advertise the Italian fashion label “No-l-ita”. Caro received 700 euros for the pictures.

In 2011, Toscani hosted the casting show 'Photo for Life' on the Franco-German TV station Arte .

Return to Benetton

At the end of 2017, the now 82-year-old Luciano Benetton returned to the top of the Supervisory Board of the Benetton Group and he wanted to work with Toscani again. Fabrica , Benetton's communications research center, is to be jointly converted into Fabrica Circus 7 / 7x24 .

In February 2020, Benetton parted ways with Toscani. The background was that Toscani had made derogatory comments about the bridge collapse in Genoa in 2018 . The company responsible for the bridge was controlled by a holding company owned by the Benetton family.


  • Graz, Atelier Jungwirth, October 17, 2019 - January 25, 2020



  • Matthias Jestaedt : "Advertising is a smiling carrion". The Benetton judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court. In: Jura , Vol. 24 (2002), Issue 8, pp. 552-558.
  • Lorella Pagnucco Salvemini: Toscani - The advertising campaigns for Benetton 1984-2000. Knesebeck Verlag , 2002, ISBN 978-3-8966-0121-6
  • Fabio Petroni: Horses in Portrait (with texts by Oliviero Toscani), White Star, 2010, ISBN 978-3-8672-6160-9

Web links

Commons : Oliviero Toscani  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Oliviero Toscani in the Munzinger archive ( beginning of article freely accessible)
  2. a b c d e f Lorella Pagnucco Salvemini: Toscani- The advertising campaigns for Benetton 1984-2000. Knesebeck Verlag, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-89660-121-0 .
  3. … underweight: Oliviero Toscani is pretty wrong with No-Anorexia. Retrieved June 19, 2013 .
  4. Anorexia Nervosa on christophschaden.de. Retrieved June 19, 2013 .
  5. Benetton advertising: Oliviero Toscanis Tastelessness - Lifestyle news - DIE WELT. Retrieved June 19, 2013 .
  7. business-on.de: Interview with Oliviero Toscani. Retrieved June 19, 2013 .
  8. Benetton shock advertising: Photographer Oliviero Toscani - image 7. In: Spiegel Online. June 29, 2013, accessed January 21, 2019 .
  9. Alexandra Genova: The Story Behind the Colorization of a Controversial Benetton AIDS Ad. In: Time.com. December 14, 2016, accessed January 14, 2019 .
  10. Strong pictures, thin bones. In: Focus Online. May 19, 2005, accessed January 21, 2019 .
  11. Shock Campaign Against Anorexia. In: Spiegel Online. September 24, 2007, accessed January 21, 2019 .
  12. Stefanie Rosenkrantz: Isabelle Caro: A woman between life and death - lifestyle. STERN.DE, October 24, 2007, archived from the original on April 16, 2016 ; Retrieved June 19, 2013 .
  13. ^ Margot Reis: How an Anorexic Marketed Her Disease. In: WORLD. Axel Springer SE, December 7, 2007, accessed on February 13, 2019 .
  14. Vanessa Steinmetz: A photo like a revolution. In: Spiegel Online. November 21, 2011, accessed January 21, 2019 .
  15. "Unbearable pain": 82-year-old Luciano Benetton wants to save his company. In: diepresse.com . January 31, 2018, accessed February 7, 2020.
  16. Thesy Kness-Bastaroli: The old Benetton Guard takes over the helm again. In: derstandard.at . February 2, 2018, accessed February 7, 2020.
  17. Benetton fired star photographer Oliviero Toscani. In: derstandard.at . February 7, 2020, accessed February 7, 2020.