Scavullo, Francesco

Francesco Scavullo

Francesco Scavullo was a ubiquitous photographer whose images glamorized the famous and the fashionable for more than 50 years in private portraits and dazzling magazine covers. Mr. Scavullo’s work ranged from portraits of well-known personalities to astoundingly beautiful flower studies. He was particularly known for his seductive covers for Cosmopolitan magazine, which he photographed for more than three decades. ”Somebody’s got to come out for a view of life that is beautiful,” he said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 1976. ”I know there are times of unrest. But I also know there is beauty.” The words reflected his lifelong philosophy.

In addition to his long association with Cosmopolitan, Mr. Scavullo was, at various times, a contract photographer for Seventeen, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Universally known as Scavullo, he worked for almost every major women’s magazine and shot covers for People,

Newsweek, Rolling Stone and Interview. He photographed Madonna and Brooke Shields for Time and Martha Mitchell for New York magazine. He produced or collaborated on books including ”Scavullo on Beauty” (1976), ”Scavullo on Men” (1977), ”Scavullo Women” (1982), ”Scavullo” (1984), and Mr. Scavullo, who never lacked ego, enjoyed his position in the realm of idealized and fantasy-like fashion and beauty photography. His career began when he was hired as an apprentice in a studio that produced catalogs. An introduction to a Vogue editor led to a trial at Vogue. For six months, he was assistant to Horst P. Horst, a photographer who became both a mentor and a friend. Later, in yet another studio where he was an assistant, Diana Vreeland, then at Harper’s Bazaar, brought in a young model named Betty Bacall. Mr. Scavullo always claimed that the result, a photograph famous as ”the look,” was 50 percent his because although he didn’t shoot the picture, he did set it up.

By the time he was 19, he had several credit lines in prestigious publications and soon after, bought a four-story carriage house on the East Side of Manhattan. The building was both studio and living quarters for Mr. Scavullo for half a century. He recalled that some years ago, on location at a pyramid in the Yucatán, he ran up hundreds of narrow steps to explore camera angles for a shoot the following day. When it was time to descend, terrified by the height, he froze. He refused to move for five hours and came down, crawling backward and gripping the stairs, only when someone was sent up to rescue. The next day, camera in hand, he ran up the steps. At the top he leaned recklessly into the air to get his shots. When he finished, he sprinted down. ”The difference was magical,” he said. ”The camera changed my personality.” Francesco Scavullo’s was born in Staten Island, NY in 1921 and died in 2004. His photographs are exhibited in galleries internationally and collected for their beauty and importance by collectors extensively.