Update February 2021: In light of the recent sexual exploitation allegations pitted against Emanuele D’Angelo, this post now carries a trigger warning. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (US) and National Domestic Abuse Helpline (UK) to find out how to get help. You are not alone.
The iPhone is as disruptive a tool for various industries and professions as any we’ve seen up until this point in time. The way we communicated with each other changed. The way we went places changed. And of course, the way we documented our lives was never the same thanks to that tiny, onboard lens which instantaneously turned hundreds of millions of people into photographers.
Add in the now ubiquitous “selfie,” and platforms like Instagram, and would-be shutterbugs realized that they didn’t even need subjects/people to shoot, or to have a tangible portfolio. Needless to say, calling yourself a “photographer” didn’t have the same cache as it did when the profession required an industry-standard camera.
Rome-born photographer, Emanuele D’Angelo, comes from an era of photography where a “traditional” approach was the industry norm – enamored by the books of luminaries like Hirohiko Araki and Richar Kern which he had acquired from his father. While for many artists, this may have formed a jaded opinion towards the newer generation, D’Angelo is actually happy to see people expressing themselves in any matter they see fit.
“When I was a kid this wasn’t possible,” he says. “The only social media that was around back then was MySpace. [It’s] not really a platform that was photography friendly. But I am happy to experience this moment we are living. Kids dreams can become real now and Instagram does help that.”
One gets the sense that D’Angelo’s appreciation of modern self-expression stems from one of two things: he’s a positive person, and he himself has also embraced the changes that have occurred since that fateful moment when Steve Jobs stood on stage at MacWorld in San Francisco on January 9, 2007 and touted a two-megapixel camera.
D’Angelo planted the seedlings for what would grow into a substantial lifestyle project – LIVINCOOL (which now blends his photography with merchandise) – while he was a student in Rome. On the advice of professionals in the communication field – one he hoped to get a job in following graduation – he was instructed to build something akin to a visual portfolio of his work. In a sense, they were asking him for something that Instagram now accomplishes for the new school of photographers.
“At that time (around 2008) we were looking at Kanye’s blog all the time,” he says. “We wanted to do something similar but more editorial. I came up with the name ‘LIVINCOOL.’ I wanted to have a name that was communicating pure lifestyle. I really liked this Snoop Dogg song back then called ‘The Cool’ from the Ego Trippin album. So I decided to combine the word ‘LIVING’ with ‘COOL’ in one word: ‘LIVINCOOL.'”
While many like to think that successful entrepreneurial stories happen overnight – and is as simple as settling on a moniker – D’Angelo had to first and foremost use LIVINCOOL as a revenue stream.
“When I moved to London at the end of 2009 I was desperately looking for a job,” he says. “I randomly met this PR guy that started hiring me to shoot events. I also started to take photos in a club in Mayfair a few nights a week. Both of these things helped me meet people and also gave me a salary that allowed me to survive in an expensive city like London. They weren’t exciting photography jobs, but fortunately they also weren’t time consuming either. I had plenty of time to focus on what I really wanted to do and push my website further. After about a year and a half my website started to take off so it was then I realized that this was becoming my job.”
Emanuele D’Angelo’s early approach is a valuable lesson to entrepreneurs and creatives everywhere. Before one can worry about “selling out,” a person must establish a way to “sell in.” For him, this meant shooting photographs of people at parties, handing out business cards, and directing people to LIVINCOOL as a place where they could download photographs of themselves. If Facebook is/was a place where people post about themselves, the earliest stages of LIVINCOOL was an opportunity for D’Angelo to provide professional assets for them, and also drive traffic to reap the benefits from ad revenue.
Shortly after, D’Angelo made the most out of a 10-second chance encounter with famed designer, Karl Lagerfeld, while on the streets of Paris. The universe was now rewarding him with a subject more befitting his original intentions for LIVINCOOL.
“The photo came out really well and I was super happy to have captured this intimate moment with Karl,” he says.
Having photographs of fashion icons in one’s portfolio isn’t necessarily the golden ticket, but it does help in scoring invitations to fashion weeks around the world – which inevitably leads to interactions with more influential people in the arts.
Although D’Angelo has shot people like Rihanna, Big Sean, Bella Hadid, Miguel, Rich the Kid, and Dwyane Wade, its his work with model/actress, Emily Ratajkowski, which has allowed him the most exposure for LIVINCOOL
“I met my friend/muse Emily Ratajkowski when I went to LA for the very first time back in 2012,” he says. “A friend we had in common from Rome introduced me to her and her boyfriend at that time. We started to hang out and take photos once in a while and that helped us to build the strong friendship/work relationship we have today.”
Not surprisingly, when D’Angelo decided to lean further into merchandising to expand LIVINCOOL beyond the two-dimensional confines of photography, he enlisted Ratajkowski to look effortlessly cool in pastel hoodies and crop top T-shirts.
Despite what is now a tried and true formula in the world of fashion – calling for one part beautiful woman and equal parts merchandise – Emanuele D’Angelo makes it clear that the photographic aspect is the most important, and even refuses to call LIVINCOOL a “fashion brand.”
“My photographs and the concept of my brand LIVINCOOL are related,” he says. “I want my photos to express somewhat of the same concept, whether the subject is a great model or a kid on the streets of L’Havana in Cuba. Even if the name itself LIVINCOOL could sound a bit shallow, I want it to have a deeper meaning and my main aim is to keep inspiring people through my photographs.”
Much like the iPhone itself – which continues to offer more and more amenities – Emanuele D’Angelo and LIVINCOOL are continuing to diversify what the lifestyle project offers. The road hasn’t always been smooth, but D’Angelo enjoys embracing the challenges along the way.
“Roadblocks are unavoidable, especially in creative industries,” he says. “I’ve definitely had the experience, where my creativity just isn’t at a level that I want it to be at, and I don’t want to give it up because I’m passionate it about it, but certainly when you lose your drive or inspiration for a certain thing, taking a step back, or working on something different can be just as productive and inspiring.”