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Endpoint: Willy Rizzo

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created on: 26/05/2023
by: Lo55o (11702)

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Willy Rizzo (22 October 1928, Naples, Kingdom of Italy – 25 February 2013, Paris, France (aged 84)) was an Italian photographer and designer.

Grandson of Neapolitan magistrates , Willy Rizzo was passionate about photography at a very young age. At the age of twelve, he took his first pictures and painted the portrait of his classmates at the Italian high school on rue Sédillot in Paris with the Agfa Box camera given to him by his mother.

In 1944, he bought a Rolleiflex. His idol is the photographer of the magazines Vu and Le Détective.

Willy Rizzo enters the world of cinema, and frequents the studios of Billancourt and Joinville in particular. He photographs the stars who are enthusiastic about his style. His photos are published by Ciné Mondial , Point de Vue , then Images du Monde. He covers the Nuremberg Trials in 1945/46.

In 1947, he made his first trip to the United States on behalf of the English agency Blackstar.

He was hired by Point de Vue and produced his first reports. He leaves for Tunisia on the Mareth line, from where he reports a report on the tank wrecks, published by LIFE.

After the war, he worked for France Dimanche, covering the first Cannes Film Festival. He travels to the United States .

Willy Rizzo will photograph most of the big stars from the years 1945 to 1970: Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, Maria Callas, Sarah Vaughan, Gregory Peck …

When he returned to France in 1949, he was hired to create Paris Match, for which he produced the first color cover with a photograph of Winston Churchill.

Rizzo was sent to Indochina in 1952, with a 35mm Leica, two Rolleiflexes, four electronic flashes and a Linhof camera.

Philippe Boegner, director of Paris Match, wanted to obtain “different” or unexpected images which the photos produced by French Army photographers for propaganda purposes did not allow.

Rizzo meets Generals de Lattre de Tassigny and Salan and Commander Bigeard, and he is the first journalist to enter a Vietminh prison camp .

He covered the battles in Tonkin at the end of 1952 and also photographed trenches, shots hitherto avoided by the Army because they were too reminiscent of those of the First World War and its quagmires, which were banned from broadcasting.

Even if the articles of his colleague Philippe de la Baleine are often more favorable to the French army, his photos displease, annoy the military command, which considers them “spectacular”.

He returned to Europe to photograph the stars and take most of the fashion shots for the newspaper. Paris-Match publishes the March 28, 1953 series of artistic photos by Willy Rizzo: Picasso drawing a goat's head on a blackboard with colored chalk. He will also be on the cover of Paris Match in march 1958 with the very young Yves Saint Laurent and his favorite model Victoire.

In 1959, he became artistic director of Marie-Claire and worked for the fashion magazine Vogue. While Roger Thérond wanted to do a subject on the signs of the zodiac with starlets in front of Jean Lurçat 's tapestries, he said no. The idea did not please him and he decided to make a subject with great personalities of Art with his staging. This gave, for example, a very beautiful photography session with Coco Chanel and The Lion in 1960, in his studios.

In 1968, he moved to Rome and began his work as a designer, first for his personal needs. He manages to create his own collection, influenced by big names like Le Corbusier . He created his company, which had up to 150 employees.

About ten years later, he abandoned his design activity to return to France and return to his first passion, photography.

Willy Rizzo was married to Paule, a former model at Chanel, with whom he had two children, then in second marriage to Italian actress Elsa Martinelli.

From 1979 until his death, he was married to Dominique Rizzo with whom he had three children, Willy Rizzo Jr., Camilla and Gloria.

Willy Rizzo dies on February 25 , 2013, at 84, in Paris. He is buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery.
Relations :
Married to [m. 1968 - div. 1978] : Elsa Martinelli
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Item number : 56860

Submitted by : Lo55o (11702)
on : 26/05/2023