Inside PhotoVogue’s first global open call

4 April 2022

“Our ambition with PhotoVogue is to create an effective platform towards achieving a more balanced and inclusive vision, ensuring that all talents have equal opportunities to succeed.”

"PhotoVogue was born in the digital age and made it its mission to be a driving force for change," says Conde Nast Italy's Alessia Glaviano of her brainchild.

Launched in 2011 by Glaviano, PhotoVogue serves as an international database of the most interesting voices in contemporary photography, with work submitted from image-makers from around the world. It's mission has always been to champion talent and contribute to shaping a richer and more diverse industry.

Today the platform — which only had local open calls — goes global with its first global open call and is supported by all 26 editions of Vogue.

Glaviano, Head of Global PhotoVogue, chats with us about PhotoVogue’s mission, how the expansion reinforces its D+I goal and her proudest moment.

PhotoVogue began as an initiative from Vogue Italy - where did the idea come from?

It all started when we launched, Vogue Italia's website. I wanted to create something meaningful for photography, at a time when it was already ubiquitous online. I felt that what was missing was a curated platform dedicated to it.

The other important thing is that I wanted to be open not only to fashion, but to all genres of photography, because Vogue is a brand that touches upon all aspects of life and creativity. I couldn't predict that it would evolve and become what it is today. I worked tirelessly, night and day, keeping the integrity of it, building the community, finding talent and mentoring them.

You’re now expanding PhotoVogue globally and across all the Vogue editions. Tell us a little about how this came to be.

It felt like a natural step for PhotoVogue to become global as it counted more than 300,000 artists from 210 countries (the entire world!). For many years PhotoVogue and Condé Nast have been collaborating with Red Hook Labs, founded in Brooklyn by Jimmy Moffat, as we shared the same mission: to empower talent and give opportunities to people and communities who have been historically excluded.

I will be forever grateful to Christiane Mack, Condé Nast’s Chief Content Operations Officer, for having the vision to see the potential of the project, believing in it, wanting to expand it and being such a great leader and supporter. I also have to thank my dearest friend and mentor Jimmy Moffat for helping guide me through this process with integrity and soul.

Going global with any local program or initiative often comes with challenges, did you face any and how did you overcome them?

Of course. We all had a tumultuous couple of years, the pandemic, a war, the integration of the businesses and our overall transformation, but I truly believe in the new vision for Condé Nast and in our leadership. I experienced first hand how enriching it is to work side-by-side with people from different cultures now that I have a global role.

In the beginning of something new of course there is always a lot of work to be done, but I love challenges, and I believe so much in this project that nothing scares me.

I also would like to say that I feel so lucky to be part of the Global Content Operations. People like Christiane and our manager Millie Tran are extremely talented and supportive and they have been such advocates for creating a new culture, both for our team and for the company at large. A culture that is inclusive, transparent and honest.

What are you most looking forward to with this new stage of PhotoVogue?

I think that having all Vogues onboard will guarantee more opportunities for artists from every part of the world, this is what I’m looking for. Discovering and nurturing talents, and giving them the opportunity to emerge and work within the Condé Nast Global network.

Unfortunately, in our society discrimination and prejudice still occur, making it particularly difficult for diverse talent—in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, education, background, and so on—to emerge. Celebrating our differences is Condé Nast’s goal, and diversity and inclusivity are our core values. Our ambition with PhotoVogue is to create an effective platform towards achieving a more balanced and inclusive vision, ensuring that all talents have equal opportunities to succeed.

Aside from the platform, there is also a PhotoVogue Festival – tell us a little about it.

I used to go to photography festivals around the world and I thought that there wasn’t one linked to an important fashion publication. Festivals are great occasions to bring together people who have the same passions, and the community being such an important part of PhotoVogue I decided to have our own festival! It has been a great success since its first edition in 2016. Young people travel from all around the world to come to our yearly event.

I’m proud to say that it is the first festival dedicated to the shared ground between Ethics and Aesthetics and since 2016 has brought together our community touching upon meaningful contemporary issues and furthering the conversation around the promotion of creativity and diversity in image-making.

We have explored the power of female representation, promoted diversity in all its forms, examined the concept of masculinity, deconstructed stereotypes, made a hymn to the values of community and hope and reclaimed an alternative, different way of telling a tale with “Reframing History” in 2021.

My dream is to lead the expansion of our festival, building on the success of the Italian edition, which has engaged the city of Milan for the past six years with events, talks, exhibitions, portfolio reviews, and many other initiatives. The new global PhotoVogue could be supported by the same caliber of events and experiences internationally.

What's the process for submissions like?

Mondays are open for the community to submit single images to be reviewed by the PhotoVogue team. We receive an average of 16,000 images. By expanding globally, PhotoVogue will soon accept submissions from video makers, digital artists and illustrators, creating a new generation of multimedia contributors. To make our scouting objectives more effective PhotoVogue will promote open calls to scout diverse talent in specific regions in the world or by theme. The open calls will be evaluated by Condé Nast staff worldwide and visual experts from the broader international visual community, with different backgrounds and vision so as to try to provide the most inclusive and multifaceted perspective.

Today we are launching our first Global Open Call for “The Next Great Fashion Image Makers,” and our first Local Open Call, “Italian Panorama,” which is dedicated to Italy as an homage to PhotoVogue’s origins.

This will be the first of many local calls to single out the most talented artists in specific regions of the world and give them the opportunity to emerge and work within the Condé Nast Global Network.

The Open Calls will run from April 4 until June 25 and is completely free. We are looking for artists who express themselves with photography, video, or both, and anyone 18+ can apply. In regard to the Global Open Call, all the Vogues worldwide will publish a portfolio of the best submissions, some artists will also be selected to collaborate for an editorial and the most talented ones will be part of the main exhibition at PhotoVogue Festival 2022 in Milan.

We are looking for visions that push the boundaries of the current fashion landscape. We want to highlight the next generation of socially conscious fashion image makers, artists who are a driving force for change and whose work can engage in a dialogue with different genres, from documentary to art. We seek artists who are able to tackle issues relating to social justice and sustainability in powerful, vibrant images and films. Fashion has become a shared language and one of the primary tools to build identity, and Vogue, through its photography and stories, has always tackled its intersection with sociopolitical issues by raising questions, embracing innovation and even influencing change. We are committed to paving the way for the new generation of fashion image makers!

The work submitted is reviewed by an esteemed jury made up of industry experts?

Yes, I think the jury is such an important part of being able to provide the most inclusive and multifaceted perspective and I’m very proud of the jury of our first Global Open Call. We have 80 Jury Members: editors from all the editions of Vogue worldwide, and visual experts from the broader international visual community, with different backgrounds and vision.

Over the years, PhotoVogue has helped launch the careers of young artists, can you tell us a little about that?

In the past, PhotoVogue has helped launch the careers of numerous artists internationally by featuring them in Vogue Italia and its website, showcasing their work in exhibitions and collaborations in branded content with prominent brands. Just to name a few, some artists that ended up shooting the covers of Vogue’s editions worldwide include Kennedi Carter, Camila Falquez, Nadine Ijewere, Mous Lamrabat and Sonia Szóstak. Now that we are globally engaging all the editions of Vogue worldwide, the possibilities to feature artists from different backgrounds, countries, and aesthetics have multiplied.

There’s a D+I component to this initiative. As well as championing new talent and voices, one of the main goals of PhotoVogue has been to reach into historically excluded communities and tell their stories visually – tell us about why this was important to you and how PhotoVogue has achieved this over the years?

Let me begin by saying that I’m very proud to be part of a company who has made a clear commitment towards D&I. Celebrating our differences and promoting many voices is our goal and our reality. Diversity is one of our greatest strengths and it perfectly aligns with PhotoVogue’s mission.

I think that our society has made great progress regarding a more inclusive representation of diversity, in this sense, the people of the web have positively led the way influencing brands and traditional media alike. The new way of looking at gender fluidity, at the endless forms of beauty, of ethnic backgrounds and origins is an achievement that is changing the contemporary aesthetic standards and is beginning to alter people’s cultural and identity codes in terms of openness, dialogue and encounter. This started to occur only when the narrative was being extended to include not only those whose story we are telling, but also those who tell those stories and who often share the same life experience.

We should always ask ourselves who is telling the story, and we as a publishing company have a great responsibility in making sure to strive for diversity not only in front but also behind the scenes, so to speak.

For too long our industry has perpetrated clichés and reinforced an ideological vision that is the result of ignorance and lapse of judgment. Just like words, or perhaps even more so than words, images can hurt, cause misunderstandings, consolidate prejudices. I believe that fashion is intrinsically political. By its very nature, it needs to engage in topics such as gender, wealth, identity building as well as engaging the dreams and interactions of entire generations.

There are no topics that fashion cannot concern itself with. Nowadays a magazine is not anymore confined to the print magazine, we communicate with an impressive number of people from all over the world, our stories are not only read by those who buy the physical copy and this involves a great responsibility. PhotoVogue was born in the digital age and made it its mission to be a driving force for change.

Is there a PhotoVogue story that sticks out to you?

I have so many stories to share, so many incredible artists that I met through PhotoVogue and whose life we touched. Here I’d like to share with you a story that reflects our commitment towards creating a more just and ethical visual world.

Over the years I have personally art directed many collaborations between PhotoVogue and Gucci. I would like to thank them because of their vision towards inclusivity, which aligns with ours, and for the freedom and trust that they placed in me and PhotoVogue.

One of these collaborations was a Gucci Beauty campaign featuring Ellie Goldstein, a model with Down syndrome – represented by Zebedee Management, a revolutionary modeling agency that represents people with disabilities – through the eye of David PD Hyde, a PhotoVogue artist who also has a disability. The campaign went viral, everyone talked about it, Ellie became a star and hasn’t stopped working since then. Until five years ago, this was unthinkable.

Growing up I asked myself what must kids with disabilities think about themselves if they never see themselves? Not in a magazine, not in the movies, nowhere. Or in the eventuality that they do see themselves, then the narrative will always be either pitiful, or heroic or a mix of the two. The fact that I contributed, even an inch, to the shift that is happening towards a more just representation of people with disabilities is the thing I'm proudest of.