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.

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