Sunday, January 16, 2011

Remembering... Francesco Scavullo

For thirty years every Cosmo girl was also a Scavullo girl; from 1965, when Helen Gurley Brown hired him to sex up the cover of Cosmopolitan, until his death in January 2004 (ten days before his eighty-third birthday, on his way to photograph Anderson Cooper) the obfuscation he employed in the pursuit of effortless glamour would beguile and bedevil women in equal measure...

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1921, Scavullo showed an interest in fashion from a young age; he got his first job as a photographer while still a teenager. Indulged by his mother (who used to take him window shopping along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan), his sisters (who were his first models), and his father (who bought him his first camera) he went to work for Vogue in 1945.

There Scavullo worked with acclaimed photographers Cecil Beaton, John Rawlings, and Horst P. Horst, whose assistant he was for three years; in 1948, Scavullo shot his first cover, for Seventeen, and from that point on never looked back.

In high demand throughout the 1950s and 1960s, it was the 1970s that really defined Scavullo's oeuvre; the cocaine-fuelled orgy of that decade was best contrasted by Scavullo's cool, aloof style. One of the first celebrities to go public with his diagnosis of bipolar disorder in the early 1980s, he was thereafter vocal in regards to others seeking treatment for this potentially ruinous condition.

Scavullo was also known for his portraits of celebrities; he shot the notorious Burt Reynolds centerfold from the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan, and one of his muses was doomed supermodel Gia Carangi. The April 1982 cover he shot of her was her last, and taken when no one else would hire her, which says a lot about the level of loyalty for which he was known.
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