Scandebergs on Surreal Setups and The Power of Red

Behind the Image is an ongoing MODELS.com series taking a more personal look at both established and emerging creative talent.

self portrait courtesy Alberto Albanese and Stefano Colombini

Scandebergs, photographers

Hometown: Milan, Italy
Based: London, UK
Representation: East Photographic (London, New York)

How would you describe your work?
We like to envision surreal situations within the ordinary and creating specific characters inhabiting our universe.

What’s your trademark?
People are often impressed by our carefully crafted lighting setups and use of vivid colours within our work that makes it very cinematic. There are also some recurring elements like the spotlight or the colour RED.

How did you get into your chosen career?
Stefano: I always had an attraction to visual storytelling and image-making. I think growing up through the internet and through the golden age of Tumblr led a whole generation to blend visual inputs from their physical reality (in my case a small industrial village near Milan) with complete new fantasies, paving the way to an incredibly creative and escapist generation. It’s exciting to see when image-makers successfully remix and reshape the old into a new visual language. After graduating high school, I moved to London to study at the University of the Arts, which helped set the foundation of my fashion and image-making practice.

What other jobs have you had?
Alberto: When I moved to London in 2012 I was only 19 and had to sustain myself so I worked in retail full time while working on personal projects with Stefano on the side. With my first savings, I invested in a computer and film camera and started as a self-taught retoucher and photographer. After few years of ‘training’, Stefano and I made our collaboration official as Scandebergs. The name is a neologism derived from an ancient, almost mythological, figure called Skanderbeg appearing in my genealogical tree. Despite the nordic sounding name, we have nothing to do with Scandinavian countries (many ask).

What have you watched/heard/read lately that has inspired you?
Stefano: La Veneno, directed by Javier Calvo y Javier Ambrossi has been a recent incredible discovery. I am also reading Italian literature at the moment while Alberto often reads or listens to podcasts about physics, which ends up informing our work in some capacity. Quantum Physicist and writer Carlo Rovelli is an all-time favourite.

What do you love about what you do?
Stefano: I love the unique and always different synergy that happens by working with different teams and talents. It’s a good exercise in challenging the preconceptions of how things should be or should be done. Our images may seem staged (in the way we create characters and environments for them to live in) but unpredictability is a great resource in the creative process, so an open conversation with all the collaborators is always key.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced professionally?
Stefano: I think sticking to your vision without sabotaging yourself too much, especially in the beginning, is the hardest part!

What’s one thing outside of your work that you would like people to know about you?
Alberto: Crazy fact, I was meant to have an identical twin if it wasn’t for my “vanishing twin syndrome”. It means I’ve fully absorbed what would have been my twin while in my mother’s womb… So Scandebergs might actually be a trio rather than a duo?

Selected Work

courtesy Scandebergs

Vogue Italia
Vogue Italia, February 2018 with Maggie Maurer was our very first 10-page editorial for Vogue Italia and it has a special place in our hearts. We envisioned a Hollywood actress heading to a surreal audition.

courtesy Scandebergs

Hercules
This story was inspired by our Mediterranean roots, turning our memories of ancient sculptures and symbols come alive in this fantasy.

courtesy Scandebergs

10 Men
Another special story where we got to envision some of the recurring themes of our practice, implementing ‘stage and backstage’ as key elements of the story and blending the ordinary with fantastical elements, such as the pond surrounded by curtains at sunset where Noah Louis Brown is laying down, pictured above.

courtesy Scandebergs

St Vincent
A fun day spent with Annie imagining ourselves driving a ghost car on Mulholland Drive for GQ.

courtesy Scandebergs

GQ Style
Still grateful for the opportunity to collaborate on this issue where we got to work with incredible talents from our queer and trans community, pictured here Kai-Isaiah Jamal.