Consider This: Florencia Rolandelli at Refinery29
Photography Director of Branded
Content at Refinery29
We are thrilled to highlight a professional in our industry who is doing ground-breaking work in regard to celebrating diversity and inclusivity in fashion media. This month, we asked Florencia Rolandelli what she’s been considering.
How did you get started in your career path? What did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up in early internet era suburbia, British fashion magazines were my portal to a much cooler world. I wanted to be Isabella Blow when I grew up, surrounded by artists and dressed super eccentric.
I took a year off midway through art school to work at Nylon Magazine. This was seen as artistic sacrilege by peers and professors at my very conceptual school. But I loved the tiny photo team so much and despite all I did, it never felt like work. After finishing a photography degree I was unprepared for the (mostly gendered) politics of the assisting path. I ended up on the production side working for photographers, magazines and brands wherein I spent many years inching closer and closer towards the goal of working alongside photographers developing creative.
Can you tell us a brief story about a moment in your career where you knew you had a unique point of view in regards to body positivity, inclusivity, and/or diversity?
I think if you’re open to it, the beauty of inclusive work is that everyone’s unique POV is essential. There are projects where I can directly lift from my personal experience and others where my role is more about giving the right person a platform.
That open-ness happened for me on a project where I had to confront my own acceptance of mainstream beauty standards after years of working in and loving fashion photography. For my dream client Lane Bryant, we cast tons of girls, photographed them nude aside from body paint and questioned the Female Gaze. Essentially allowing us the right to admire ourselves, each other and encourage a kinder more accepting point of view. I drew more from my personal than professional experiences for that one. Ultimately I learned that it is far more powerful to sell an elevated reality to your audience than an unattainable dream.
How does your POV influence the work you are doing at R29?
I constantly balance a giddy excitement over an evolving photo industry and a frustration of slow progress in representation of women. While making work for our branded partner clients can be a challenge, it does fuel a lot of curiosity on where the line of pushing it too far or not far enough exists. Personally I still struggle to see myself reflected in traditional media so all this effort for inclusivity in advertising is a selfish hope that other editors, brands and image makers have me in mind when they make work too. Since imagery now lives just about everywhere (often for free!) I have a tough love approach expecting us all to be a little smarter about the work we make and the effect it has.
Where do you see the trends in women’s magazines going in regards to body positivity, inclusivity, and diversity?
Now that we’re beginning to see the world reflected more accurately in women’s magazines I can’t imagine we can ever go backwards. And as more complex female centric stories are told, they will require a new equally complex visual language as a compliment. I’m curious to see what cues advertisers will take and how that will make its way into the market.
What piece of advice would you give the editorial industry?
Editorial content is still super important to me as an opportunity to think slower (than digital) and appreciate imagery interacting with design. But editorial process feels like a dated hierarchy and it is far more exciting and modern to embrace the loud chaos of many voices supporting a brand mission.
Similarly, true representation means that every single person that touches a production was thoughtfully considered for their relevance to the subject matter and that they felt comfortable to contribute to the idea. Over the years I’ve learned the hard and easy way that hiring is so powerful. In 2019 and on, I’m never more bummed than when I see a missed opportunity to elevate a voice, especially in editorial work.
Who is doing work that you admire in the editorial field? For example, can you highlight someone really doing amazing work either in front of or behind the camera, or on an editorial staff member?
Micaiah Carter, James J Robinson and Natalia Mantini are photographers whose work I love right now. They balance being consistently thoughtful and prolific. Natalia especially has brought an amazing amount of visibility to Latinx women in such a short time. I love that Micaiah’s style slightly adapts to the project - it’s always exciting to look at.
I love the new magazine Primary Paper created by Coquito Cassibba & Jessica McGowan. The photography vibrates with the sense that all contributors are having fun in well thought out exploration - it’s so refreshing.
Can you recommend 2 or 3 people we could interview in upcoming months?
Hawa Arsala is an inspiring Creative Director always advocating for women of color.
I’ve been really into Photo Director Gem Fletcher’s podcast The Messy Truth. I love how she speaks about all the realities of working in the photo industry without ever seeing them as downsides.
I stalk Photo Director of The Fader and No Mans Land, Emily Keegin from my Instagram :) I love how she shows her process of working on IG stories.