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Davide Sorrenti famously part of the Sorrenti family of photographers, is the brother of Mario and Vanina Sorrenti, and son of Francesca Sorrenti, fashion photographers who’s works are famous world wide. Born in Naples, Italy, June 9th, 1976, Davide moved with his family to New York after being diagnosed with thalassemia, a hereditary form of amenia which meant that Davide required regular blood transfusions, leaving him appearing several years younger than his actual age.

His personal life is subject to media scandal, and is reflected in his work that of which again a heroin chic style. By his late teens, Davide’s drug fueled images had begun to find editorial success in magazines such as Interview, Detour and Ray Gun.

Davide Sorrenti’s work was hard to come by online,however once I’d found it, I could see the direct connection with heroin chic. These shots certainly weren’t glamorous, nor alluring, however stylistically composed and presented. The idea of a glamorized representation I think comes from a good looking image however bad looking the subject.

James King by Davide Sorrenti

The photograph above certainly isn’t attractive and alluring like traditional fashion photography, sworn against by Richardson and Day. It features Sorrenti’s girlfriend at the time, model James King, who herself had aa heroin addiction as did Sorrenti. The photograph is explicit, and also features posters of dead rock stars, whom, tragically like Sorrenti, died from drug related abuse. Davide’s brother, Mario Sorrenti, expresses his upset and anger about his brothers name used in association with the glamorization of drugs after his death, claiming how the media had very much to with it also. He also mentions his refusal to read articles about heroin chic or his brother in a BBC interview which I had found on Library Search, and found in part online:

Fatal Exposure (BBC 2)


How did the media portray him?

-Umm I really like to refuse to pay attention to a lot of this stuff because you know like media always portrays things in the way they want to see it in the way that it’s like you well like it’s sensational or a story or this or that and of course they liked picked up on Davide and his death and then they picked up a couple of pictures, and then they turned into this like whole heroin chic, and now you know the whole big scene about it. And you know everyone, like everyone, took advantage of the moment to, to get some, something to get a story out of something. Like build something that was totally like not the way it was you know. And that’s, that’s why I like refuse to you know, read a lot of the articles and like this, you know this is the first interview and stuff and I’m not going to do anything else and the reason I’m doing this is because you know it’s totally disgusting how my brother’s name has been like totally, he’s been totally misunderstood. And you know, people like just take advantage.

The video is powerful as well as very informative. I managed to find transcripts from the same interview with Davide’s brother which provided more insight into Sorrenti and his life, hard to find amongst the drug scandal.

Mario Sorrenti talks fondly of his brother, and mentions how he was a ashy kid growing up and moving to the U.S. and ‘was kind of like a homeboy on the streets’.Davide Sorrenti was really into photography until he started taking it seriously when he was 18 years old, and people saw something new in his work that they liked. He was hard eared, difficultly in telling him what to do, especially when Mario was concerned about his relationship with known drug addict James King. Davide had progressed onto hardcore drugs, and had overdosed already before he died in 1997, however only a small amount of heroin was found in his system after the autopsy, suggesting a stronger like to his blood condition as already mentioned.

Mario Sorrenti also referred to heroin chic:

When the term heroin chic was formulated about a whole generation of artists like Glenn Lutchford, Juergen Teller, did Davide come into that climate?

-You know, I don’t, it’s really funny like how things like that happened with the heroin chic because it’s crazy how pictures may get totally like misinterpreted by certain people, you know for a while there was like the anorexia thing you know, and that was like you know where really people were just trying to like strip all that sort of like falseness and all the make up and all the like, like that super like thing that was totally not real and bring a little bit more realism into the images and then people were all off a sudden it was like oh it’s anorexia, it’s this, it’s that. And I think like slowly people like end up taking what they want, you know and then you get like other photographers doing like all these different things, and things just escalate. Then you know it becomes like heroin chic. It’s something that is definitely going on out there with kids with the culture you know, there’s a lot of kids doing that and stuff and I think in general a lot of people that you know aren’t really responsible towards the imagery, like putting out and stuff. They just do whatever, but you know, most of it is just like a big hype that explodes. I have seen some pictures that are like reflecting that and it’s like you know, that’s like you’re like God man, this guy’s like taking it too far, you know this guy’s crazy. And then there’s some other pictures that are you know like you know that has nothing to do with heroin chic or it’s got nothing to do with that and people just don’t see the difference. You know they can’t tell the difference and, and I think, I don’t know where it came from, you know I think it probably came from just something that was in the air that was happening, and like some magazine picked up on and started saying do this and I honestly like don’t think that those photographers like Glenn Lutchford and Juergen Teller – I mean I’m not to protect them, but I know that they’re not like trying to project that image, and I know definitely some of my friends that are photographers were never trying to project that image in a fashion point of view. I mean they’re photographs, it is just like they were being blamed for something they never actually did. Next year it’s another thing and you know next year people you know people will be getting blamed for something else, you know but you know it was like……

Francesca Sorrenti, Davide’s mother mentioned: “Every day for them was a photo shoot, he documented everything,” which makes me think about how similar this could be to the way Corinne Day worked. His younger brother Justin added “He was into fashion, but he would try to play” — subvert — “fashion,” says Justin. And for that, he was revered by kids. “He was bringing everything that we were to the pages of magazines,” says Shawn; ” — the realness of everything, graffiti, hip-hop,” says Justin. “He was a trendsetter,” says Richie. “People copied everything he did,” Justin says, offering, “slitting the sides of your pants legs . . . cutting your own hair.” -New York Times


Davide Sorrenti Photographs [online images] available from:



      One Comment

      1. Awesome article.

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