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Controversial Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani returns to work with Benetton

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Oliviero Toscani: Benetton

Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani has shot the latest Benetton campaign, returning to collaborating with them after leaving his role as art director for the brand in 2000. He is known creating Benetton’s most controversial campaigns from 1982 until his departure, including ads that showed priests kissing, AIDS activist David Kirby on his deathbed, death row inmates, a newborn baby with umbilical cord still attached, and three hearts overlaid with text saying “White, Black, Yellow”.

His new campaign for Benetton is decidedly less controversial visually, but does contain a political message. One photo depict a class of 28 children, representing 13 different nationalities from four continents. Another shows ten children, from places like Burkino Faso, the Philippines, Italy and Senegal, gathered round a teacher reading Pinocchio. The campaign “returns to a theme of integration that has long been dear to the brand,” Benetton says, “imbuing it with new meaning and urgency”.

“Integration is a major issue in our world today,” Oliviero says. "The future will hang on how, and to what extent, we use our intelligence to integrate with others and to overcome fear.” This campaign is part of a larger project around integration, which Oliviero will lead; he will also be involved once again with developing the brand’s creative output, starting with a product campaign launching in February 2018.

Over the course of his Benetton tenure Oliviero faced much criticism for using such hard-hitting political and emotive imagery for a fashion brand, though he has a long history of using his craft to raise awareness of important causes. In the 90s he co-founded magazine Colors with graphic designer Tibor Kalman, aimed at exploring multiculturalism, and he has recently worked with the Italian Red Cross and the UN high commissioner for Refugees, as well as on campaigns to battle anorexia, domestic violence and road safety.

The new Benetton campaign images will appear in press internationally from today (1 December).

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Oliviero Toscani: Benetton