Sunday, September 13, 2009

Siren with a Lens

I fell in love with the circus and Burt Lancaster when I was about 10 or 11. Back in 1956 my brother took me to see Ringling Bros Circus in one of their last appearances under canvas and I was enchanted. That same year Trapeze was released and I remember having the comic book and reading about it in one of the screen story magazines. And it had some poster! Lancaster and Tony Curtis in white circus tights. And standing between them Gina Lollobrigida all spangles, cleavage, doe eyes and pouty lips. But even at 10 the sight of Burt in tights did more for me than Gina in spangles.

La Lolla was one of those buxom foreign stars that came into the studio system as it was fading into oblivion. She was exotic, she was beautiful, she was Italian and she was hot. But she was always more than just T & A - she had a solid career in Italy and proved herself an accomplished actress in several other films that were popular in North America including The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell (the inspiration (?) for Momma Mia).

But there were other things besides film work that interested La Lolla. She began taking photographs of places she went and people she knew and saw. Her career as a photographer soon became as important to her as her movie stardom. She branched off into sculpture and painting and proved a major talent in those fields also.

We were fortunate to catch an exhibition of her work - 250 photographs - at the Palazzo delle Esposizion. We had gone in to see the Bulgari exhibition that Laurent talked about earlier this week -40,000,000.00 euros worth of bling!!!! A pretty spectacular show but frankly I was more impressed by the Lollobrigida exhibition on the 2nd floor.

Her photos range from the exotic to the every day - from unknown natives in jungles to world famous celebrities. And in everyone she has something to say about the human condition or the world she saw around her. Some really remarkable stuff.

I did a search on the web to see if I could find a portfolio of some sort and attempted the url for the website given in the exhibition catalogue but it was inactive. The best I could do was a few scans from the catalogue published by Damiani. It was difficult to choose there were so many wonderful photos but here are a few examples of the remarkable photographic talent of Gina Lollobrigida.

Perhaps the most loving photos are those of Italy. There are so many that truly capture the spirit of the country including one where the entire population of Subiaco, the village where she was born, showed up for a "family photo". Above left: Finally the show begins! Above right: The Monks of San Miniato al Monte.

Old age in the Old World and the New. Above left: Waiting to go to church, Calabria. Above right: Waiting, Denver.
Caught unawares or posed she captures the essence of her famous subjects. The toughness of a Bette Davis or the chameleon face of Ralph Richardson.

She said it took her a week before she could bring herself to go into the streets of Calcutta to take photos. Most of them are not as romantic as the Tomato seller, she captured the poverty and squalor as well as the beauty.
My first thought was that these were two grandmothers - one in Manila, the other in Shanghai. But apparently the top photo is a mother - old before her time - and her child. Such a contrast between it and the child with the noddles -a photo that brought a smile of recognition to Laurent's face when he saw it.

As I said it was difficult to choose what to scan without doing the whole catalogue, I only wish it was available online so I could share it with you. She is a remarkable talent.

13 settembre - San Giovanni Crisostomo

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5 comments:

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

i'm going to go there and see them..i knew she was an acomplished photographer..but havent' had a chance to see them..thanks for the linc..

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

wow..those guys in the tights really made me interested in the circus..ha..
but marlon brando in the white pants as napolian in desiree...made me hot hot hot..and didn't even know what I was feeling..ha

David said...

Yes, I was surprised when I stumbled across a (quite old) book of Lollobrigida's photos in a second hand bookshop. She's a cut above those celebs who think they'll be interesting just because they can hold a camera.

Bev aka Aisha said...

Wow. Simply Wow. I have seen some of those faces in my travels, but she has captured them in a way that touches the soul. Now I must find a book of her photos. Thanks for sharing that.

lotusgreen said...

wow will! these are astonishing, and i had no idea in the world of this whole other dimension of her.

thank you