Sky is known for taking “The X Factor” to the next level in Italy. Now in a bold experiment, it’s launching the first European talent-competition show dedicated to photography, with Isabella Rossellini as host. “Master of Photography,” which will see Rossellini return to work in television after decades, marks the most ambitious production spawned by the Milan-based Sky Arts Hub since it launched a year ago to conceive and commission content available to Sky’s 21 million subscribers across Europe.
“The challenge,” Rossellini says, “is to try and show how a visual artist, in this case a photographer, expresses his art.”
She notes that it’s harder than with singers and dancers. During her career, the actress and model has worked with star photographers such as Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Based on an original format that was adapted from the success of previous photography-themed shows on Sky Arte in Italy, “Master of Photography” will debut on Sky in the U.K., Italy, Germany and Austria, and run for eight episodes. The winner will get €150,000 ($167,600), the biggest prize ever offered in a European photography contest, plus the privilege of having the picture hang in a prominent European museum.
The contestants travel all over Europe and face different challenges, including shooting monuments, nature, famous people, nudes and night photos.
“We are not looking for a super-specialized photographer,” says Roberto Pisoni, who heads the Sky Arts Hub. “We are basically looking for an ‘eye,’ someone who can be well-versed in various types of photography.”
The jury comprises three internationally prominent photographers: Germany’s Rut Blees Luxemburg, Brit Simon Frederick and Italy’s Oliviero Toscani.
In this age of cellphones and selfies, photography is going through an extraordinary change. “People photograph each other every second,” Pisoni points out. “At the same time we know that photography can be something very refined. And this seemed to us a great way to give the audience the opportunity to really understand what good and bad photography really is.”
Luxemburg adds, “Of course TV and photography are almost diametrically opposed media, which makes it a challenge for us as well. But it’s about the knowledge of photography, and bringing it to an audience, and I think that can be done.”
“Master of Photography,” which is a collaboration between Sky Italy, U.K., and Germany, will be the third Sky Arts Hub production to beam simultaneously across Sky’s European platforms, following “Operation Caravaggio,” a docu about the various theories behind the theft of a Caravaggio masterpiece, and “Artists in Love” a series of one-hour docus on great love stories between artists, including Picasso and Dora Maar, Salvador and Gala Dali, and Johnny Cash and June Carter.