NEW YORK — Francesco Scavullo, the legendary fashion photographer behind Cosmopolitan’s most iconic pictures, died Tuesday. He was 82.
Sean Byrnes, Scavullo’s life partner and the sittings editor on most of his work, said the cause of death was a heart problem. The two were in Scavullo’s Upper East Side apartment Tuesday morning, preparing to go downtown to shoot CNN anchor Anderson Cooper when Scavullo said he was feeling faint. Moments later he was dead.
For more than 50 years, Scavullo was one of the most well-known photographers in fashion. He presided over advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein, Versace and Valentino and shot magazine covers for Time, Life, Seventeen, Andy Warhol’s Interview, Carmel Snow’s and Anthony Mazzola’s Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, New York and, of course, Cosmopolitan, where he was the key photographer from 1965 to 1997.
Scavullo born in Staten Island in 1921 (his book, “Scavullo Photographs, Fifty Years,” says he was born in 1929 but that was a fib, said Byrnes, to help him keep working). His father was a well-off businessman who owned a utensils company. When he was 11, Scavullo and his family moved to Manhattan.
As a child, Scavullo fell in love with the world of movies and became obsessed with the magazine photographs of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, the latter of whom he later worked with. By the age of eight, he was dressing his sisters up as film stars, and attempting to re-create the kinds of photos he saw. He did not know the names of the photographers, Byrnes said, but he could replicate their lighting, even in Staten Island.
“Ever since I can remember, I have loved looking at beautiful and glamorous women, probably because they made up for what was missing in my middle class mother and sisters,” Scavullo told WWD in a 1971 interview.
His father was not thrilled with his son’s obsession, but it didn’t seem to matter.
At 18, he blew off going to study hotel management at Cornell University. His career in photography began when Vogue hired him to assist Horst in 1945. Two years later, he shot his first cover, for Seventeen Magazine, and a contract followed. In 1950, he began working for Mazzola, who was then at Town & Country. The two collaborated for several decades.
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