In a way this all began in the 1930’s with Erich Salomon. A lawyer by training and a self-taught photographer, he gained access to major political events and was the first to secretly take photographs in a courtroom—something that was, and still is, forbidden. No one before him had dared risk doing this. Occasionally he got caught, but he was hardly ever accused.
The term Paparazzi derives from the film La Dolce Vita (1960) by Federico Fellini. The character was modelled after a real person: Tazio Secchiaroli, who later rose to become Fellini’s set photographer. Since the 1960’s Secchiaroli and his colleagues waited nightly, with camera and flash in hand, for prominent victims on Rome’s Via Veneto. About the same time, Edward Quinn and Daniel Angeli were very active in the South of France, mainly on the Cote d’Azur, and often worked with very long lenses.
The current exhibition concentrates on snapshots and portraits of famous people from the 1960’s and 1970’s and offers us a glimpse of how the mythic aura of the stars was dismantled by showing them going about their daily lives. We encounter Alain Delon and Prince Charles, Mick Jagger and Woody Allen, Sophia Loren and Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot and Gina Lollobrigida at parties, on the street, at the beach and so on. Most of these pictures were taken “from a safe distance” with the photographer going unnoticed. The stars were often taken by surprise and their pictures are usually, so to say, ´stolen´.
There will always be paparazzi photographs that cross over into celebrity and portrait photography. Jean Pigozzi, the photographer included in the exhibition title, has been able to cultivate the kind of intensive and intimate relationship with the rich and the famous that is so desperately sought after by the paparazzi at large. Being befriended with many famous people in the international social and cultural scene, he has been making candid portraits of prominent individuals at private locations since the 1970’s. An unusual aspect of his work is his double portrait series Pigozzi & Co. In this ongoing project he appears together with a musician or an actor friend, the two posed with their heads, often touching, in a close-cropped composition. These are images from daily life, in which Pigozzi poses as friend and fan. In this manner he subtly takes the hunger for celebrity images to an absurd extreme and in doing so he ingeniously plays to this desire when he publishes the images in books, or exhibits them, as he does here at the HNF.
Helmut Newton enjoyed the work of both Salomon and Weegee, both of whom could certainly be considered forerunners of the paparazzi, and appreciated the tenacious and enterprising approach the paparazzi brought to the task at hand. In his autobiography Newton wrote that after he saw Federico Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita starring Anita Ekberg, he became interested in the phenomenon of the paparazzi. In 1970 he travelled to Rome to work with “real” paparazzi. As part of a commission for the fashion magazine Linea Italiana, Newton hired a few of them to pose with his models. In Newton’s unconventional approach the photographers were asked to treat the model as if she were a famous person. An interesting aspect of Newton’s work is the combination of multiple real elements, such as the model, the fashion and the paparazzi, on the one hand, with the staging of the photograph on the other. In the 1980’s and 1990's he aimed his camera at the paparazzi again—and they too aimed theirs at him—whilst he worked with his models on the Croisette, at the Cannes Film Festival.
With ´Pigozzi and the Paparazzi´, the Helmut Newton Foundation (HNF) invites you to review these varied aspects of paparazzi photography. In the spirit of Helmut Newton, this latest HNF exhibition covers another controversial theme, and in doing so, intends to build upon the recent success of ´Men, War & Peace´ and ´Wanted´. The exhibition runs from June 20th until November 16th, 2008