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Brigitte Bardot and the Original Paparazzi: An exhibition of rare vintage photographs     Sep 3 - Oct 3, 2009


Coinciding with the 75th Birthday of Brigitte Bardot on 28th September 2009, James Hyman Gallery presents an exhibition of 75 vintage photographs by some of the most famous paparazzi photographers.

Presented at the same time as London Fashion Week (18-22 September) Brigitte Bardot and the Original Paparazzi focuses on one of the greatest fashion icons of the twentieth century.

The exhibition includes iconic images as well as rare works that have never been exhibited or published.

Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the birth of the paparazzi, the exhibition traces the development of a whole new aesthetic and genre of photography. Fuelled by an international obsession with celebrity, these rare photographs illustrate the creation of a more candid, intimate and revealing depiction of youth that swiftly replaced the more controlled and posed studio imagery of the publicity machines of the film studios. It shows how Bardot and the paparazzi created a whole new image of womanhood, female sexuality and youth fashion.

It includes rare original vintage prints by the two most famous paparazzi photographers, Tazio Secchiaroli (1925-1998) - the basis for Fellini's character, Paparazzo in the seminal film, La Dolce Vita, 1960 - and Marcello Geppetti. It also presents vintage works by a range of other photographers including Roger Corbeau, Loomis Dean, Walter Limot, David Magnus, Patrick Morin and Claude Schwartz.

Brigitte Bardot and the Original Paparazzi is curated around a series of themes which chart a range of photographic approaches to the subject from the complicit to the intrusive, the posed shot to the snatched moment, the public to the private, the studio to the street.

The exhibition begins with the home of the paparazzi, Italy, and focuses on the work of the two most famous early paparazzi photographers Marcello Geppetti and Tazio Secchiaroli. It then explores the depiction of Bardot both on and off the movie set, from the airports and streets of the world, to her private life in St. Tropez.

The main themes include:
La Dolce Vita. The Photographs of Marcello Geppetti and Patrick Morin
Le Mepris: The Photographs of Tazio Secchiaroli
Behind the Scenes
Life and Death: Agency Wire Photographs
Bardot as Chaplin
Two Weeks in September. Bardot in London
The Creation of an Icon. The Photographs of Sam Levin
Le BB Special. Bardot's Television Special
Boats and Long Lenses. Bardot in St. Tropez

PRESS: please contact Roz Arratoon: roz@margaretlondon.com (t.) 07941 027921
SALES: please contact James Hyman (t.) 020 7494 3857

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION/ GALLERY GUIDE
The exhibition is curated around a series of themes:

La Dolce Vita. The Photographs of Marcello Geppetti and Patrick Morin.
In the post-war period, Italy was rapidly transforming. The hardships of reconstruction in the 40s and 50s soon gave way to the great economic boom of the 60s. A large factor in this boom was the amount of American financial interest in Italy, a product of the occupation at the end of the war. The greatest symbol of this was the Cinecittà studios, which became second only to Hollywood as the biggest centre of film production in the world.

Countless international productions were filmed at Cinecittà where labour was cheaper than in America. Rome became a hub for the world's most glamorous stars to congregate and mostly they were to be found on the Via Veneto. Photographers like Marcello Geppetti and Tazio Secchiaroli would flock to the cafes and nightclubs along the strip in order to photograph them, armed with their Rollei twin reflex cameras and braun flash attachments. It was these photographers, and most particularly Secchiaroli who became the basis for Fellini's character 'Paparazzo' in La Dolce Vita.

Brigitte Bardot spent a great deal of time in Italy shooting Jean Luc- Godard's Le Mepris (filmed at Cinecittà and in Capri) and Louis Malle's La Vie Privee (filmed in France and in Spoletto). When she arrived at Rome's Fiumicino Airport, she was greeted by a throng of reporters and photographers, Patrick Morin among them. Morin's shots of Bardot leaving the plane perfectly capture the essence of an era. They belong to a visual trope that symbolized the height of modern luxury and the glamorous 'jet-set' lifestyle.

La Vie Privee follows the life of fictional diva and sex icon 'Jill' who due to the pressures of fame and a troubled personal life meets a tragic end. Often overlapping with biographical details of Bardot's own life, the film blurs the lines between reality and fiction. Referring to Bardot's relationship with the persistent press, the film paints the picture of an ever-growing army of paparazzi willing to cross any line for a shot.

Marcello Geppetti's images of Bardot in Spoleto, are paparazzi images of a star playing the role of a star being hounded by paparazzi. There is nonetheless an innocence and sense of collusion in the images.

Le Mepris: The Photographs of Tazio Secchiaroli.
Tazio Secchiaroli was known as the 'leader of the pack' of the original paparazzi. Believing a picture is a stolen moment from life; he wanted his photos full of action and in defense of his aggressive photographic style, he has said, "the day photographers will no longer be after you, you'll be after them!"

Early on, Secchiaroli took pictures of tourists and American soldiers on the streets of Rome. He quickly realized however that it was more profitable to sell photographs of celebrities to the newspapers. Knowing journalists were constantly searching for a fresh angle, Secchiaroli decided to stage confrontations with his celebrity prey - a chase scene, an overturned table, a starlet on the run. He found that magazine editors, bored with staged portraits, would pay dearly for what he called surprise pictures of stars, especially if they were caught in compromising positions. The 'stolen' images would earn the 'victim' a lot of press coverage, thus satiating all parties involved. Secchiaroli and his fellow photographers would chase celebrities around Rome on their Vespas and later on Fiat 600s, both symbols of the economic miracle in Italy.

After Fellini based his character 'Paparazzo' on Secchiaroli in La Dolce Vita, his reputation soared. Various filmmakers and stars, including Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, used him as their personal photographer, and in this capacity Secchiaroli turned into a companion and confidante. Ironically, a film that reflected Paparazzo's-- and thus Secchiaroli's-- 'other' or 'outsider' status in the celebrity world was enough to grant him unrestrained access inside it.

In 1963 Secchiaroli was selected as an on-set photographer for Jean Luc Godard's, Le Mepris, a cinematic gem and Bardot's first foray into art-house cinema. The photographs Secchiaroli took with free reign on set offer glimpses into a world where film-goers are not usually allowed. Despite the full access that he was given, Secchiaroli held true to his prior paparazzi aesthetics and preferred to have his photographs appear as stolen moments, or voyeuristic glimpses into the star's life. Objects such as a statue, a lamp, or other figures often obstruct the view of Bardot; one shot is taken through bars; all giving the sense of the illicit stolen image.

Not only can we see the talent of Secchiaroli as a photographer in the shots but we are also afforded a glimpse into Jean Luc Godard's creative process via the body of Bardot. Through Secchiaroli's unconventional voyeurism, we gain a one of a kind perspective on the making of a masterpiece.

Behind the Scenes.
In this section, Bardot is captured behind the scenes on the set, in quiet moments backstage or else while the camera is rolling. Many of the photographers who worked on film sets in the 50s and 60s, originally started as paparazzi or street photographers. They were the lucky few who, due to their talent, and in some cases their notoriety, were chosen to move from the world of the illicit image to the insiders world in which their access was unfettered.

In some cases, the photographers capture poignant moments in the film from fresh angles, and the pictures would have been used as promotional images which would be distributed to cinemas and shown in the window fronts outside of the marquis. Other photographs would be used as official images chosen by the stars and circulated in fan magazines. However, most of the images in this exhibition were likely never published at all, and represent a rare glimpse behind the scenes. They are the candid moments that show a side of Bardot which was outside of her polished and manufactured image.

Life and Death: Agency Wire Photographs.
In 1961, Brigitte Bardot made one of several suicide attempts. She subsequently received treatment at a clinic in Nice, France. The public was shocked by the attempt on her life because it so clashed with her ebullient and fun-loving public persona. The newspapers were full of images of Bardot, some showing her leaving the clinic, others running stock images of the star in an attempt to get the story to press as quickly as possible. The images were wired around the world with great speed, owing to new advancements in wire technologies.

These photographs are an example of the public's thirst for images of celebrities not only in their glamorous moments, but also at their worst. They are indicative of the persistence and omni-presence of the paparazzi and the inability of celebrities to maintain any level of privacy.

Bardot as Chaplin.
The work in this section is part of a rare photo-shoot done in Mexico in 1965 during the filming of Viva Maria. According to Biographer Willi Frischauer, the shoot was Bardot's idea, and an attempt to entertain the cast and crew and release some tension on set. Frischauer writes:

'Towards the end of the seventeen weeks allotted to location work, time began to drag and the altitude became more difficult to bear. Brigitte was showing the strain. At the end of the day, the adrenaline ceased to flow and the lines around her mouth cut deep into her skin. She was not only tired but bored with the work and looked forward to the evenings when she often snuggled up with her favourite authors- Hemmingway, Faulkner, Camus and Gide. She still had her moments. Her colleagues - fellow artistes, production staff, camera crew, stage handlers - were wildly enthusiastic about her splendid impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. Emerging from her trailer complete with little moustache, bowler hat, cane and outsize boots, she shuffled and swivelled on her heels and looked endearingly pathetic. Considering Brigitte did not remember seeing a Chaplin film, the act came off remarkably well.' (Frischauer, Willi. Bardot: An intimate Biography, p. 131)

The pictures are testament to a life lived in front of the lens. Every moment, even the most spontaneous was scrutinized and photographed.

Two Weeks in September. Bardot in London.
In 1966, fresh from her marriage to her third husband, German multi-millionaire Gunther Sachs, Bardot arrived in London. To the expectant group of reporters and photographers at the airport she declared: 'It is good to have a change. Honeymoon, work, honeymoon, work.'

She was in London to shoot her new film, Two Weeks in September in which she plays a young French woman who is married to a much older man but for two weeks in September finds new love. Torn between the stability of her husband and the adventure of her lover, the films tagline deduces Bardot has 'loved as no woman has loved before!'

In one famous scene, Bardot's character models for a fashion photographer at the London Zoo. The images conjure the stereotype of the highly masculinized photographer a la David Bailey capturing the sexualized female object, relating them to Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up of the same year. The fur-clad models in cages give a sense of primitivized female sexuality, one that is closer to the natural, the instinctual.

In several images shot around London, Bardot is seen in miniskirts, a new fashion statement of the sixties, especially popular in 'Swinging London,' and one that Bardot helped to popularize.

The Creation of an Icon. The Photographs of Sam Levin.
A master of studio portraiture, Sam Levin began his career in the 1930s photographing the stars of French cinema like Simone Signoret and Jean Gabin. He became very well-known for his highly posed portraits characterized by dramatic lighting. With Brigitte Bardot as his model however, Levin found a new energy and vitality in his portraiture. Inspired by this young a vivacious star, Levin broke with many of the traditions and conventions of post-war cinema portraiture to create a series of images that encapsulate the spirit of the 1960s woman.

Sam Levin's photographs are amongst the most iconic ever taken of Bardot. He contributed perhaps more than any other photographer to Bardot's early imaging as a 'sex kitten' with his sensual, riske images.

During this time, France was looking for a new symbol of the nation and through Levin's images, found this in Bardot. Portraying her in vibrant colours, with tousled hair and bare feet, Levin broke away from traditional studio shoot conventions to create a new fashion aesthetic and sexual vocabulary. Thus conjuring a refreshing image of childish naiveté, coupled with an almost animalistic sexuality, which made Bardot a tabula rasa on which France was able to stamp their objectives of modernity. Levin's photos of Bardot were one of the main forces that propelled Bardot's image and thus France to compete with Hollywood sirens for publicity. In 1960 it was rumoured that Levin's photo of Bardot from behind in a white corset sold more postcards than that of the Eiffel Tower.

Le BB Special. Bardot's Television Special.
On New Year's Eve 1967, French TV broadcast a special colour programme devoted to B.B. - 'Le Bardot Show'. Years before its time, it effectively consisted of a collection of video-clips, which made an incredible impression on the French public. Of the dozen songs she sang, nearly half were specially commissioned. At the time of Bradot's television special she and Serge Gainsbourg, the notorious French singer, were lovers and he wrote many songs especially for her.

The affair was a discreet one to start with: unlike Gainsbourg, Bardot had a horror of press attention. Initially they met furtively at friends' apartments, but then threw caution to the wind and allowed the paparazzi to snap them at all the top nightspots or in Bardot's convertible Triumph Spitfire (with Bardot at the wheel as Gainsbourg couldn't drive), gliding through a Paris plastered with photos of BB in thigh-high boots and black leather mini-skirt straddling a motorbike - an advertisement for her latest Gainsbourg-penned single, Harley-Davidson.

On the Le Bardot Show, the stream of Gainsbourg classics inspired by his new love (or demanded by her producers) were performed by the pair in front of outlandish sets of the cod-psychedelic variety that you only ever saw on 1960s TV shows.

On the working process, Bardot commented:

"The process was very artistic. I didn't have a wardrobe assistant or a makeup assistant, or any of that. Everything that I am wearing in the songs is mine. I had wigs that Dessange gave to me, and I would go to my dressing room and grab whatever corresponded to the song: for Harley Davidson, they are my thigh-high boots, my vest and my blouse. In Everybody Loves My Baby, which I sing in English with a fringe dress, everything is mine- I even still have the cigarette-holder. For Comic Strip, they are my thigh-high boots, dancer's leotards, a little cape from Real, a black wig and some gold chains that still hang in my bathroom. There were no rules and I had fun with it. It was a joyful working environment and you can feel that."

This era represents a transformation for Bardot: from the naïve and unpretentious natural look that she cultivated in the 50s to the highly fashionable, trend setting siren of the 60s. The transformation shows Bardot's ability to adapt and reinvent herself.

Boats and Long Lenses. Bardot in St. Tropez.
In these photographs, Bardot is pictured in St. Tropez. The once-sleepy French fishing village is where she spent most of her time when she was not shooting, preferring it over popular nearby Monte Carlo. St. Tropez would not remain quiet for long however and Bardot is often credited with putting St. Tropez on the map for the international glitterati.

The shots here are taken with a telephoto lens and the subjects appear to be unaware of being photographed. This style of photograph marks a departure away from the more intimate and candid early paparazzi shots, in which photographer and subjects shared the same territory. Gone is the collusion and the game of cat and mouse of the early street photographers. The new generation of paparazzi photographer was much more akin to the realm of surveillance photography than street photography.

There are two possible reasons for this shift. Firstly, in the wake of John Lennon's death, celebrity security was heavily tightened, and access to celebrities severely curtailed. Secondly, the creation of the role of publicist put new limits on what could and could not be published.

As a result, in these images, content rules over form. Little attention is paid to framing or composition, the main focus being on capturing the target. These images mark the end of an era and usher in the type of paparazzi image we are more familiar with today.

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