1928 - 2013
Italian born photographer Willy Rizzo began his career in the golden age of photojournalism and went on to become famed for his memorable and iconic portraits of celebrity.
He took his first photographs at the early age of 12 when his family were living in Paris. As a teenager, during the Nazi occupation of the city, Rizzo bought his first Rolliflex camera on the black market. This camera and his natural talent led to a job as a reporter and him traveling to Tunisia to photograph harrowing scenes of burnt out tanks on the battlefields. Rizzo then went on to cover the Nuremberg Trials and the French Indochina War.
After the war he began photographing celebrity, when he was recruited by ‘France Dimanche’ and was sent to Cannes, to cover the first film festival. This was the start illustrious career photographing the beautiful and the famous.
After, working with magazines such as ‘Life’ in LA, he returned to Paris to work on the creation of the new magazine ‘Paris Match’ in 1949. This began a prestigious working relationship with the magazine which lasted 20 years. In 1954, he became the Artistic Director of Marie Claire Magazine and continued to collaborate with other key fashion publications including Vogue.
He was one of the last to photograph Marilyn, he charmed Marlene Dietrich into a rare photo shoot and he took one of the few known photographs of Coco Chanel laughing. His subjects spanned seven decades, from the 1940s to the 2000s including: Audrey Hepburn, Salvador Dalí, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Yves Saint Laurent, Catherine Deneuve, Brad Pitt, Le Corbusier, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Nicholson, Joan Collins, Picasso, Sarah Vaughan, Joan Crawford, Milla Jovovich, Jane Fonda, Jean Cocteau, Josephine Baker, Mademoiselle Coco Chanel, a very young and playful Brigitte Bardot and Jayne Mansfield photographed in her outrageously opulent bath-tub.
True to her word, Marilyn was there the next day, a July afternoon, two weeks before she died. She had done her own make up and Rizzo recalled that she had "...made a bit of a hash of it" and that there was "...an underlying sadness about her" but despite that, Rizzo declared that "...it was as if all the most beautiful women in the world were there, rolled into one!"
Rizzo was the recorder and witness of generations.