#GramGen is a series profiling the most radical characters in youth culture, who continue to shape trend behavior and spark controversy through their avant fashion sense and candid social media personalities.
From flying to Rome with the Bulgari team to tending to his family’s Long Island farm on his days off, Roberto Rossellini is the model and photographer doing it all. Growing up in New York, Roberto’s earliest passion was photography, focusing on portraits of musicians who came through the city. However, he found himself on the other side of the camera just over a year ago after being scouted on the streets of NY and almost immediately signing a contract with Ford Models. Given Roberto’s legacy in the industry (his mother is actress and model Isabella Rossellini, and grandmother, Casablanca’s Ingrid Bergman), one could say his unplanned intro to the modeling world seems a little like fate.
While a stellar modeling career might have been inevitable for the NY native, Roberto had always managed to stay behind the camera. It wasn’t until he began modeling that he even got comfortable with showing his face on Instagram and other social media platforms. “It was never really something I liked to do,” he says, previously only sharing his photography work. Posting photos of himself on IG, he says, allowed him to open up. As for staying authentic in front of the social media world, Roberto says it’s all about being yourself and letting people get to know that person.
Although Roberto’s modeling career has taken off in the past year, working for brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Bottega Veneta, he finds inspiration in the smaller, simpler things. Whether it’s walking through the park with his girlfriend and their dog, spending time at his family’s farm, or even teaching himself how to design, Roberto is influenced by anything and everything that surrounds him.
We caught up with Roberto to chat about how he navigates social media, his photography pursuits, and the small things that drive his creativity.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Roberto Rossellini. I’m from Italy, but I live here in New York. I’ve been living here for a long time now, basically since I was 11. Originally from Europe; my mom’s from Europe, sister’s from Europe. Family’s cool.
What’s your occupation?
Currently, I’m a model, but I’m also a photographer. I started off with photography, and I still pursue it. I shoot portraits of music artists primarily. I do mostly things here in the city. When artists come by, I try to photograph them here and take very natural portraits of them and keep it very, very chill in a sense. I don’t really like to do full backdrop set up, poses, all of that. I’ll do a lot of street photography and things like that, and it’s really fun.
Aside from that, I started modeling recently, for like a year almost now. That’s been picking up a lot so that’s what I do right now, honestly.
How did you get into modeling?
I got into modeling while being randomly scouted one day on the streets in NY with my girlfriend. They asked if I was a model, I said no then they asked if I wanted to be. I never thought of it at the time, but I said sure, why not. A few weeks later, Ford Models signed me.
Has Instagram played a role in all of that?
Instagram’s played a role more in modeling because in my photography I kind of kept to myself more. I posted occasionally, but it’s something I kind of keep more personal. I want to build a book, actually, so I’m working on that right now. I want to have a good book of all the artists I’ve shot over the years. I’ve been shooting for a while, so it should come out pretty cool.
As far as Instagram, with modeling it definitely has picked up a lot because I never really showed my face before. It was never really something I liked to do. With modeling, it kind of opened me up to becoming more open and chill with being myself, in a sense, of opening up and showing people who I am.
I feel like sometimes people do see it like that, but then at times people mix it with me being my mother’s son — my mother’s a famous actress so people sometimes will categorize that as, “oh, you’re just this famous actress or model’s son.” I’m trying to portray it opposite of that in a sense, trying to be more me. I love my mom, and she’s wonderful, but we’re two different people. I’m kind of just trying to live life as it is and keep it normal because that’s what I feel like is gonna be the best, for my Instagram at least. I feel like it’s good to keep it chill.
Who is your mom, for those who don’t know?
Yeah, of course. My mom is Isabella Rossellini. She’s the daughter of Ingrid Bergman, I should say, my grandmother and star of Casablanca, incredible film. My mom is also an actress and model. She modeled for Lancome for many years then made her own perfume line. Now she just does movies and she’s a farmer out on Long Island and that’s what we do also. That’s another thing that I do. I’m farming out on Long Island about once or twice a week. It’s real fun.
Is that a passion of yours on the side?
Kinda, honestly, it’s starting to build. It wasn’t at first, but as it started developing a lot more, it started becoming something I was a lot more interested in. Agriculturally learning about food and where your food comes from is so important. That to me was something I was just very driven towards. My mom pulled me into it. She was like, “You gotta try these eggs from our chickens right now. I guarantee you they’re gonna be better than anything else.”
I was like alright, let’s try them. I try them and they’re that much better. I try to help out when I can. It’s really fun, too. It’s a great place to go with friends and family and to take people and even just show people that want to learn. It’s not far, either, only an hour from the city. It’s easy to get there and all that.
Has your relationship with fashion changed much since modeling and Instagram?
Honestly, it’s the same. I’m teaching myself how to design a little bit. It’s something that’s slowly building and in my agenda right now. I’d say my style’s pretty much the same. I’m not trying to play a role for people on Instagram or whatnot. I keep it wholesome, you know. That’s how I am.
Your modeling career has been thriving in the last few months — what are some of your most standout moments or memories?
I really loved being in all the shows I’ve done. Dolce and Gabbana, Michael Kors, Bottega Veneta, Sies Marjan. It’s all been a really crazy experience. I also got to present Bulgari’s new book in Rome which was incredible.
Goals for the future in modeling, photography, or anything else?
Goals for the future, I’d love to go on tour again soon, on a bigger tour. I did a little one down at South by Southwest a couple times with some friends for music to take pictures. That was really fun. I want to do something grander, I guess. That’d be fun, photography-wise. I also am starting to get into shooting fashion photography a little bit more. As I work as a model it’s been interesting me a little bit more. Hopefully I’ll get into becoming someone’s assistant or something along that end. That would be kind of cool.
Aside from that, really just designing things right now is kind of what I’m putting my vision on, designing my own clothing and working on my own brand and working on myself and branding myself, really. That’s really where I see myself for the future and hopefully being able to become someone that can speak to others in a good way and show people that things are cool and you can do really cool things as who you are. You don’t really have to be anybody else. Just be yourself.
Amazing. One more question.
Yeah, tell me.
With all of these things, where do you find yourself most often pulling the inspiration?
Honestly, that’s a good question because recently it’s going to sound really nerdy, but I’m a big anime head. That’s something that really pulls me in. I really love Japanese art and Japanese styles, and even just Asian culture in general is really a big inspiration to me from feudal times, from samurais, ninjas, all that stuff, into modern day, where it’s really just futuristic, the fabrics and all that. It’s just very tech-y to me and I love it.
One of my favorite designers, Yohji Yamamoto, I love his stuff. I just think he’s grand. That’s kind of where I pull my inspiration from, honestly, I’ll really watch a lot of old animes, and I’ll watch a lot of new ones as well.
I also draw things from nature, too, which is kinda weird. I like to just go out and take a walk, I’ll be with my girlfriend, we’ll take our dog. We’ll go take a walk somewhere and I just look around for things and it’ll give me a vibe, I don’t know. It helps me. I’ll write it down. I’ll take a picture of something and I’ll remember it. It gives me inspiration to keep doing more and more things. I think it’s important because if you can’t really take in your surroundings then I don’t really know how you can take in anything. If you can’t enjoy it, then how can you enjoy anything?
For more young creatives making waves in the media, meet KidSuper the artist going after Atlantic Records & posting nudes to Instagram.