COLORS was a magazine created by photographer Oliviero Toscani and art director Tibor Kalman in 1991 to show the world to the world. With a keen attention to the power of images, it became a point of reference for many in the editorial and advertising world, publishing 90 issues before eventually closing in 2014. As a new book celebrates this amazing ride, the magazine’s legacy confirms that there’s much to discover and see, as long as our eyes are wide open.
“A mix of National Geographic and Life on acid.”
“The second cover issue shot showed the merchant ship Viora full of immigrants—also one of the Benetton campaign ads. The title of the issue was “Immigration,” and it became the key theme. From the fourth issue onwards the magazine focused on single themes: Race, Street, Ecology, AIDS, Religion, Refugee, Gypsy, Volunteers.”
“I’m a situationist. I see things and I want to document them. There’s no such thing as a shocking photograph. I’m not here as a benefactor. I’m here to record what I see.”
“COLORS has been a magnificently influential, even revolutionary project. It was like Tumblr avant le lettre, anticipating the diagonal view—a window onto the world!—that would later become the defining character of the Internet. It also invented a new kind of visual language: The prominence it gave to images, understanding their impact and using them to tell stories, was entirely innovative. In this sense, the magazine is now a bible for anyone who works with pictures. Following in its footsteps, we at Toilet Paper believe that as long as our eyes are connected through nerves to our brains, images and visual communication can have a social impact. The more an image is widespread, the more it becomes familiar, the more it becomes part of a shared cultural capital. This is what an “icon” or a “superimage” is—it’s everyone’s property and yet no one owns it. After all, what’s a more effective representation of our age than Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam looking back at us from the desktop of our phone?”
Published by Fabrica/Damiani, COLORS: A Book About A Magazine About The Rest Of The World aims to explore the best visual and textual material from the cult magazine’s 90 issues. Twenty- five years of images and texts are shaken and served using ingredients from different issues. The book, art directed and designed by Toilet Paper‘s Sebastiano Mastroeni with Alessandro Cavallini and Andrea Cavallini, features a foreword by Francesco Bonami and interviews with Luciano Benetton and Oliviero Toscani, but mostly tells the story of COLORS by using its own words, in 240 pages of visionary journey through time, between irony and semiotics.
Images: COLORS 50 Prison, photo: Adam Broomberg, Oliver Chanarin; COLORS 7 AIDS, photo: Pieter Hugo; COLORS 67 HIV/AIDS, photo: Pieter Hugo; COLORS 13 NO WORDS, photo: Roberto Villa, Marka Iride; COLORS 1 È NEONATA!; photo: Oliviero Toscani; COLORS 66 AUGURI, photo: Thies Raetzke; COLORS 57 TEENAGERS, photo: Kenzaburo Fukuhara; COLORS 4 RACE, photo: Oliviero Toscani; COLORS 36 MONOCULTURE, photo: Oliviero Toscani; COLORS 57 SLUMS, photo: Stefan Ruiz; COLORS 79 p. 95, courtesy of Damiani.