Gian Paolo Barbieri was born in Via Mazzini, from a family of textile wholesalers. It is in his father’s textile warehouse that he acquires the competence that will become helpful in his fashion photography.
He quickly moves his first steps in the theatrical field becoming an actor, operator and costume designer together with the “Trio”, a theatrical group formed with two friends, in the remaking of some parts of famous movies such as Tobacco Road, The Life of Toulouse Lautrec and Sunset Boulevard.
Later on, he was entrusted a small non-spoken part in Medea by Luchino Visconti, with Sara Ferrati and Memo Benassi.
American noir cinema constitutes an important foundation for him, trying to figure out how the actresses could turn out to be so beautiful with the use of unique lightings making them look even more enchanting. Never attended at any photography school, he would conduct innumerable experiments in his basement with light bulbs slipped into the pipe of a stove.
Movies gave him the sense of movement and the chance of carrying the Italian fashion from a footboard with a white backdrop, to the outdoors, giving it a different soul.
With the opportunity to move to Rome, and thanks to the first photos shot in pure Dolce Vita climate, Barbieri accepts the offer to work in Paris since was defined talented in fashion photography. In this way, he begins his career as assistant to the photographer of Harper’s Bazaar, Tom Kublin, for a brief but intense period, since Kublin will later miss for an ictus only 20 days later.
In 1964 he returns in Milan opening his first photographic studio, where he starts to work in fashion shooting simple samples and publishing photographic services on Novità, the magazine that subsequently, in 1966, it will become Vogue Italia.
From that moment he begins his collaboration with Condè Nast, also publishing on international magazines such as Vogue America, Vogue Paris and Vogue Germany.
In 1968 Stern magazine classifies him as one of the fourteen best fashion photographers in the world panorama.
Celebrities of the scene such as Diana Vreeland, Yves Saint Laurent and Richard Avedon, belong as part of his important history but also collaborating with iconic actresses of all time from Audrey Hepburn to Veruschka and Jerry Hall.
Fundamental stop of his course is the experience with Vogue Italy together with the carrying out of the biggest advertising campaigns for international brands like Valentino, Gianni Versace, Gianfranco Ferré, Armani, Bulgari, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood and many more with which it has interpreted the famous creations of the 80s, in concomitance with the conquest of the Made in Italy and of the Italian prêt-à-porter.
The nineties lead Barbieri to complete different journeys to the discovery of cultures without limits united with the curiosity by faraway countries and ethnic groups, by nature and for the most disparate objects according to his inspirations, giving life then, to wonderful photographic books in whose places and faraway realities they are told through his impeccable taste.
Even though the photos are in outside and often immediate or fleeting, they turn out to be so “perfect” to seem taken in a studio, blending the spontaneity of the population and of the places with the elegance and the style that typically mark him, managing to weave the spontaneity of the ethnographic photography to the glamour of the photography of fashion.
To this day Barbieri continues to be requested as a photographer and artist for fashion advertising campaigns, editorials and exposing his works at the Victoria & Albert Museum and at the National Portrait Gallery of London, at the Kunsforum in Vienna and at the MAMM in Moscow.