Oliviero Toscani (born 1942) is an Italian photographer, best-known worldwide for designing controversial advertising campaigns for Italian brand Benetton,from 1982 to 2000. Most of these advertising campaigns were actually institutionals for the brand, always composed of rather controversial photography, usually with only the company logo "United Colors of Benetton" as caption.
One of his most famous campaigns included a photo (by Therese Frare) of David Kirby dying of AIDS, lying in a Columbus, Ohio, hospital bed, surrounded by his grieving relatives. That picture was controversial due to its similarity to a pieta painting and because some thought the use of this image to sell clothing was exploiting the victim; though the Kirby family stated that they authorized the use and that it helped increase AIDS awareness.
Other ads included allusions to racism (notably one with three almost identical human hearts, which were actually pig hearts, with the words 'white', 'black', and 'yellow' as captions), war, religion and even capital punishment.
In the early nineties Toscani co-founded the magazine Colors (also owned by Benetton) with American graphic designer Tibor Kalman. With the tagline "a magazine about the rest of the world", Colors built on the multiculturalism prevalent at that time and in Benetton's ad campaigns, while remaining editorially independent from Benetton.
In 2005, five years after his resignation from Benetton following the controversy surrounding the death row campaign, he sparked controversy again with his photographs for an advertising campaign for the men's clothing brand 'Ra-Re'. Their portrayals of men participating in homosexual behaviour angered groups such as the Catholic parents' association Movimento Italiano Genitori who called the pictures 'vulgar'. The campaign came amidst on-going debate in Italy about gay rights.
Oliviero Toscani unsuccessfully stood as a candidate for parliament for the new Rose in the Fist party in the Italian general election held on April 9 and 10, 2006.
In September 2007, a new campaign against anorexia was again controversial due to his shocking photography of an emaciated woman (Isabelle Caro).
He is creating with La Regione Toscana a new research facility for modern communication called 'La Sterpia'.
(extracted from wikipedia)