After a Hard Day of Photography, 2012 (photo: Marcela Gindri)
At one time, Francesco Scavullo was one of the world’s preeminent fashion photographers. It’s said that he photographed anyone and everyone of importance, from the cream of the Social Register to super models to rock stars. Scavullo shot the nude centerfold photograph of Burt Reynolds for Cosmopolitan magazine. Even more controversial was his portrait of the adolescent Brooke Shields in a provocatively sexual pose. His flashy, “make love to the camera” style and rock music-infused studio sessions were the template for Hollywood’s depictions of fashion photography for many years.
I don’t move in that world. But by chance I did once meet the famous Scavullo.
It’s probably closer to the truth to say that I was introduced to Francesco Scavullo. I remember meeting him. I’m sure he didn’t remember meeting me.
In 1980, I made a work-related day trip to New York City. Seated across the aisle from me on the plane that morning was a local guy who’d become famous for having introduced to the United States a food-processing device that was all the rage in Europe.
He was also become famous hereabouts for having, as people used to put it, “marrying well.” His wife was the daughter of a well-known industrialist and stepdaughter of one of the richest men in America.
We chatted on the plane and shared a cab into Manhattan. As he stepped from the car, JK turned back and invited me to join some “friends for drinks” that night at their apartment.
After a day of work I felt tired and frumpy. My suit could pass for cocktail wear at home, but not among the swell set of the Upper East Side. A rainstorm and resulting gridlocked traffic, however, delayed my departure to the airport just long enough for me to give a second thought to the allure of “drinks.”
If your concept of a New York apartment is one or two cramped rooms shared with three roommates, let me must tell you that JK’s apartment was not that kind of place. Upon arriving, the doorman gave me a look of doubt, if not downright disapproval. But after a call upstairs verified my legitimacy, I was escorted to their floor—yes, they had their own floor—and greeted by a young factotum in a white waiter’s jacket.
In fact, there were a lot of factotums in white jackets serving food, drinks and generally attending to the dozen or so people already there. After relieving me of my overcoat and briefcase, I was shown into the drawing room. I mixed and mingled as best I could. The other guests talked of places and events and pastimes of which I knew little. My wife and I had not just closed up the summer place in Southampton. We weren’t making plans to be in Gstaad for New Year’s Eve.
Eventually it was time for me to leave for the airport. As I made my way to the elevator my departure was blocked by the arrival of a flock of new guests. At the center of the group was Francesco Scavullo. I was drawn back into the party briefly, where I was introduced to the great photographer. He took one look at me and barely acknowledged my offer of a handshake. Famous photographers don’t shake hands?
As for the picture above, a classmate in the photography workshop I recently took in New York asked me to pose in front of (and in) the Pulitzer Fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel. What is not visible in this picture and wasn’t apparent to me at the moment she took this picture was that there was a small rivulet of water getting ready to pour down my back.
What we do for art!
Fountain Life, 2012 (photo: Marcela Gindri)