Davide Sorrenti's story remains an enigma to this day, heralded as the golden boy of the New York scene until his tragic end at the age of twenty, his death and its aftermath sparked a media frenzy that would end an era in the world of fashion. Born into a prolific family of photographers dubbed “The Coreleones of Fashion Photography,” David was diagnosed early on with a debilitating blood condition, Coolies Anemia. Forced to grapple with his own mortality from birth, Davide lived knowing that he had limited time to leave his mark.
In 1985 Francesca Sorrenti, Davide's mother brought the clan to New York from Naples, Italy seeking better treatment for her son's illness. She arrived a single mother to find a New York raw and dangerous with her three children Mario, Vanina, and Davide in tow. She built a career in the world of fashion as a photographer, and her children were quick to follow in her footsteps. Davide's older brother Mario left for London to model where he became part of a new guard of photographers that would shatter the glamorous aesthetics of the time. In Mario's journals Calvin Klein would find the nude portraits he took of his young girlfriend Kate Moss in their London flat, and from there Mario's career as a photographer was launched and some of the most iconic images of the era were birthed.
Coming of age in nineties New York, Davide immersed himself in equal parts street life and fine art. A walking paradox, he was as inclined to hip hop as opera, grafitti as Henry Bacon, he never left home without his Polaroid SX-70. Davide quickly formed the SKE crew, or See Know Evil, and covered New York with its name. Looking to the great photographers of the reportage tradition, he admired most Nan Goldin and Larry Clark emulating their work in his own style. From the shadow of his brother's work Davide emerged quickly garnering praise for his images of New York's youth in the late nineties. He saw the power and importance like none other of what would be the last real youth movement throwing himself head first to its center.
His work was widely admired though little understood, images of equal parts melancholy and danger, he soon found himself published by the most influential magazines of this movement. Doing away with the glamorized images of eighties excess, these new images of raw anti-glamour ushered in a new aesthetic that swept the fashion world. Davide soon fell madly for James King, a young model of the time at the height of her career. Together the two led a love story until his tragic end.
With his time running out, his fellow transfusion patients slowly dying one by one, he began experimenting with the drugs glamorized within the industry as an escape to his debilitating chronic pain. On the evening of February 4th, 1997 he was pronounced dead at the apartment of a friend, reported inaccurately as a heroin overdose in the press. Suddenly this personal tragedy was transformed into a media frenzy, and Davide overnight became the poster boy of “Heroin Chic,” a term that Bill Clinton would guarantee become a household name after he reprimanded the industry for glamorizing drug use evidencing Dave's death. Amid the public outrage and moral crusading that followed the era of “Heroin Chic,” came to a crashing halt. The Sorrenti family quickly cut off access to Davide's work, and until now little has been known of Davide's true story. With only the media sensationalism left in his wake, his work and the times he documented have been misconstrued and little understood.
“See Know Evil,” is Davide's story told by those who knew him best. It's a story about coming to America, about family, about art, about fashion, about photography, about the last great youth movement, and about a New York long since sanitized and made safe. It's the story of a boy forced to face death like few ever must; choosing to express himself, and in doing so leaving one of the great bodies of work from an era few have been given a chance to know until now.