Davide Sorrenti, the New York photographer who died in 1997, at age 20, was, says his friend Lola Schnabel, “living in truth.” Now his mother, photographer Francesca Sorrenti, with London’s Idea Books, is publishing Davide Sorrenti ArgueSKE 1994 – 1997, a retrospective of her son’s work that more than supports Schnabel’s claim. (SKE stands for See Know Evil, the moniker that Sorrenti and his gang of friends and cohorts adopted, while Argue was his graffiti tag.) Naturalistic, authentic, and compelling, the images of Frankie Rayder, Milla Jovovich, Carolyn Murphy, and his girlfriend Jaime King, whom he was shooting editorially for the likes of Interview and Detour magazines, reflect the ’90s New York Sorrenti was living in. It was a city still in the shadows of a decimating 1987 recession and pulsing with rap, grunge, and skateboarding—cultures he knew intimately.
Sorrenti had his own shadows to deal with. He had a hereditary blood condition, thalassemia, and used heroin in the last year or so of his life. His death due to kidney failure was co-opted into the narrative around heroin chic, and fashion’s troubling flirtation with vacant-eyed models in less than salubrious settings, images which often referenced documentarians like Larry Clark or Nan Goldin. But as the conversation with Francesca Sorrenti that follows reveals, the truth of her gifted son’s life and work—he was the brother of photographers Mario and Vanina Sorrenti—was far more complex than that. And this book, as well as the 2018 documentary about Sorrenti, See Know Evil, reminds us that the best way to think about this young man is not what he left behind, but what he continues to give us.

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