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

Finally the show begins.
The Monks of San Miniato al Monte

Old age in the Old World and the New.

Waiting to go to church, Calabria
Waiting, Denver

Caught unawares or posed she captures the essence of her famous subjects.

The toughness of a Bette Davis
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.

The Tomato Seller
The poverty of Calcutta

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.

Mother and Child, Manila
Grandma and a bowl of noddles, Shanghai

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

Valentino at 45

Before I arrived in Roma I had this vision of the woman: air and ice – elegant creatures in haute couture and Amalfi coast tans – La Bella Figura. Well I don’t see much of that on the number 84 bus in the morning or even at the opera – though I must admit there where some dressed-to-the-nines woman the night we went to the opera at the Baths of Caracella. I realize now they may well have been tourists.

But for five months in late summer and early fall there was a place where feminine elegance was supreme here in Roma. The newly housed Ara Pacis was the venue for a retrospective celebrating 45 years of the fashion style of Valentino.


Visually it was a stunning use of the incredible space that is the Ara Pacis and curators Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfredo created colour groups that had impact and excitement. I honestly couldn’t believe that I spent two hours the first visit and over an hour the second looking at an exhibit of haute couture.

Its taken a while to get this video together – mostly because I can’t seem to get any music download that Windows Movie Maker finds usable. I know its a little long but there was so much to see and as always I took way to many photographs. Please let me know how it works as I may have to break it down into segments.

13 novembre – San Diego D’Alcalà