Tag Archives: Photography

The Taylor-Burton Diamond, Excerpts from My Life in Focus

On this day nearly fifty years ago (forty-nine to be exact), on October 24th, 1969, Richard Burton purchased the now-famous Cartier Taylor-Burton diamond as a present for Elizabeth Taylor. The diamond was rumored to have served as an apology after another one of their tumultuous arguments. The diamond was the first to ever be sold at public auction for over a million dollars, though the exact amount has never been disclosed.

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All of the photos from above come from Gianni Bozzachi’s photo collection and autobiography, MY LIFE IN FOCUS: A PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNEY WITH ELIZABETH TAYLOR AND THE HOLLYWOOD JET SET. Bozzachi recounts his own life story from humble beginnings to notoriety as an acclaimed photographer. In addition to his own remembrances, Bozzachi reveals private moments in the Taylor-Burton love story and includes photos of other notable stars, including Marlon Brando, Ringo Starr, and Audrey Hepburn.

Photographer To The Stars


Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Photo by Gianni Bozzacchi, author of My Life in Focus.

Once again we find ourselves in the heart of awards season, and while much attention is given to the flood of images coming from the red carpet, little thought is given to the men and women who dedicate themselves to capturing the glitz and glamor of Hollywood’s budding starlets and leading men.

In My Life in Focus: A Photographer’s Journey with Elizabeth Taylor and the Hollywood Jet Set, Gianni Bozzacchi gives his firsthand account of life gazing at some of Hollywood’s biggest stars through the lens of a camera. This honest and lively memoir also reveals private moments in the romance between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor—to whom Bozzacchi was personal photographer, friend, and confidant—and features dozens of photographs capturing unguarded moments between the two.9780813168746

Bozzacchi gives a fascinating, behind-the-scenes account of Hollywood in the 1960s and 1970s, with all of its seductive charms and quirks. He tells of racing sports cars with Steve McQueen on the set of Le Mans, of fielding marriage proposals from Coco Chanel, and of photographing a shy young actor by the name of Al Pacino. His unique ability to put his subjects at ease, and his commitment to photographing celebrities as individuals allowed Bozzacchi to capture stunning images of some of the biggest stars of the twentieth century, including Audrey Hepburn, Robert Mitchum, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda, and the royal family of Monaco.

In the the following excerpt from My Life in Focus, Bozzacchi discusses the artistry behind one of his most iconic images, which he shot with the intention to dispel rumors that Elizabeth Taylor was losing her famously beautiful looks:

Of all the photos I’d taken, how many revealed the artist in me? I was always photographing for reasons dictated to me by others. The artist always came last, if he even came into the picture at all. Above all, you had to satisfy the objectives of the photo shoot—whether it was publicity, a poster, or a piece of clothing that needed selling. Generally, the subject was a star or someone important. Then there was the context. Was it for a magazine? Or a poster? In which case, the subject had to be to one side of the  image, because there’d be words on the other. As the photographer, you came last. If you did manage to infuse a little artistry into the photo, great. But my experience had taught me that nourishing such hopes was invariably in conflict with the aim of the image.

A true artist is free to express him- or herself completely, with no conflicts or compromises. Many of my photos were not like that. I enjoyed more freedom than a set photographer, but I had limits all the same. On set, for example, I couldn’t control the lights because that was up to the director of photography. My only choice was what angle I chose to shoot from. The clothes were chosen by the director in collaboration with the costume designer. The makeup artist decided the hairstyle and makeup of whatever star I was photographing. Sure, there were a few occasions when I was able to make my own decisions and express myself. But most of the time, I had to repress myself.

But there was one shot that really did express the artist in me. I was still burned up by the fact that someone had destroyed Elizabeth’s image. As her personal photographer, it was up to me to fix the damage. The idea that Elizabeth had suddenly become fat and ugly was absurd. Just look at that photo of her running out of her dressing room […] No one could say I’d touched anything up. That photo was as true as it gets. And technically, it was almost impossible. Just before taking it, I’d seen Elizabeth go from the set to her dressing room. Once the set floodlights had been switched off, the light was very different, very soft, beautiful. I liked the way it bathed Elizabeth’s figure and wanted to be able to photograph her in that light before they put the floods back on. Using a flash was out of the question because it can destroy any atmosphere. I measured the relative aperture. The stop was on 2, so the focus would be very tight. The speed was one-fifteenth of a second, which, technically, means it should be impossible to freeze a subject in motion. But I was convinced I could pull it off.


Bozzacchi’s iconic photo, signed by Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth came out of the dressing room running, which made everything even harder. With no time to plan, I shot without thinking. As she ran toward me, I dropped to my knees and leaned backward at the same speed that she was advancing, snapping off three shots. My movement compensated hers, creating a sense of immobility, even though Elizabeth was actually still running. There was no pose, no tricks, and the way her top wrapped around her body highlighted how well proportioned she was. And how beautiful.

Many great photographers have photographed Elizabeth during her career. Why, then, does talk always turn back to me? Why not Richard Avedon or Lord Snowdon? Maybe because I never photographed only the woman, the wife, the actress or star—I also managed to photograph her as a fully authentic individual. I brought her to life. I never immortalized an immobile and inexpressive star. And I never lurked in the bushes with a zoom lens like Galella. A photographer has to be in touch with his feelings, which I believe is what made the difference between that photo and all the others. Richard [Burton] liked it so much that he wrote a prose poem to go with it:

She is like the tide, she comes and she goes, she runs to me as in this stupendous photographic image. In my poor and tormented youth, I had always dreamed of this woman. And now, when this dream occasionally returns, I extend my arm, and she is here . . . by my side. If you have not met or known her, you have lost much in life.

William H. Mumler: One of Photography’s First Forgers

Ever heard of Spirit Photography? The occupation entails exactly what it implies: the attempt to capture paranormal entities on film. The field has been disregarded completely now, and all of the photographs have pretty much been disproven, but it’s regarded as one of the biggest hoaxes in the early days of photography and one of the first instances of photography forgery. So in honor of the holiday that revels in bamboozlement, let’s take a look at these incredibly fake, but still uncanny, photographs.John_J_Glover

While it is common knowledge now, the idea of double exposing photos was a foreign concept when Spirit Photography came to public’s attention. After taking a self-portrait of himself in the early 1860’s, William H. Mumler (pictured below) discovered the outline of a figure standing behind him.

gm_10226501Mumler thought nothing of it, but the people he showed the photograph thought it resembled the likeness of his deceased cousin. Seeing the opportunity to make a profit, Mumler started his very own Spirit Photography business, operating as a medium for families that lost family members in the Civil War. His charade didn’t last long however; Mumler was brought to trial in 1869 on accounts of fraud. He was dumb enough to get caught by putting the ghostly apparitions of still living residents of Boston in his photographs. Not surprisingly, people started to recognize the “spirits” in their portraits walking down the streets. Mumler’s trial garnered so much attention that the famous P.T. Barnum testified against him, unsuccessfully though. Mumler failed to be found guilty, but his photography business was ruined, leaving him penniless until his death in 1884.   Mumler_(Herrod)

The most famous picture Mumler ever took was of Mary Todd Lincoln actually. Mumler didn’t know it was actually her at the time of photo, as she used the pseudonym at the time of the session. The photograph was widely circulated and is now known to be fake, but it one of the first examples of photography forgery.

Mumler_(Lincoln)Learn about more hoaxes, historical and mythical, from some of our books here.


This Thursday is the grand opening of David Zurick’s art gallery, 38.05°N, 84.50°W!

Attention all art lovers! Be sure to clear your evening for this Thursday, February 19, 2015 and head over to the Mill & Max Contemplative Art Gallery for an evening of photography and ambiance. The evening will begin at 6 pm with the Opening Reception and Artist’s Talk with UPK author, David Zurick!

To prepare yourself for the event, catch yourself up Zurick’s works in the UPK books, Land of Pure Vision: The Sacred Geography of Tibet and the Himalaya and Illustrated Atlas of the Himalaya.

Here are some of Zurick’s photos from the gallery “Sacred Geography series” on his website:

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Can’t make it to the grand opening? No worries. The gallery will be displayed from February 19 – March 22! We hope to see you there!

Gems of the Backlist: HARLEM by Morgan Smith and Marvin Smith

Here at the University Press of Kentucky, we’re in the middle of a program to digitize all of the books that we’ve published since our founding in 1943. It’s a lot of work going through over 1300 books, but it’s been a process full of fun surprises and astounding discoveries. Best of all, every now and then, there’s a book that we just can’t put down—a book so good we just can’t resist sharing it with you again:

HarlemImagine my delight when I picked up Harlem: The Vision of Morgan and Marvin Smith. Born and raised in Nicholasville, Kentucky, twins Morgan and Marvin Smith knew that they would not become sharecroppers like their parents. They yearned for the opportunity to pursue art, and that passion led them to New York City at the very height of the Great Depression. Despite the dire economic times, the pair found work with the WPA and soon opened their own portrait studio in Harlem.

Rejecting the focus on misery and hopelessness common to photographers of the time, the Smiths documented important “firsts” for the city’s African American community (the first black policeman, the first black woman juror), the significant social movements of their day (anti-lynching protests, rent strikes, and early civil rights rallies), as well as the everyday life of Harlem, from churchgoers dressed for Easter to children playing in the street. The Smiths’ photography and art studio was next to the famed Apollo Theatre, and it became a required stop for anyone making a pilgrimage to the community.

This beautiful book features nearly 150 photographs drawn from the collection of the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Smith family archives, and they depict amazing American scenes: Maya Angelou early in her career as a Primus dancer, W.E.B. DuBois recording a speech in their sound studio, Joe Louis at his training camp, Jackie Robinson teaching his young son to hold a baseball bat, Nat King Cole dancing at his wedding, Billie Holiday singing for friends, Josephine Baker distributing candy to children, and many other prominent figures at significant and ordinary moments of their lives. Here’s a little peek into the pages of Harlem:




Splendor in the Hollywood Hills

Tomorrow marks what would have been actress Natalie Wood’s 75th birthday. Beloved and celebrated for her roles in films such as Miracle on 34th Street, Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story, and Rebel Without a Cause, her life was cut tragically short at age 43 during a boating incident that remains a mystery to this day.

Natalie’s long-time friend, writer-director-producer Tom Mankiewicz, wrote a touching tribute in his autobiography My Life as a Mankiewicz: An Insider’s Journey Through Hollywood. Remembered by Mankiewicz as “fiercely loyal to her friends,” his memoir tells stories from happier times, like parties on New Year’s Eve, her love of Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man, and finding her lost dog, Cricket, in Bel Air.

Life Magazine has released a series of never-before-published photos of the star, a few of which you can see below. You can also read an excerpt on Natalie Wood from My Life as a Mankiewicz after the jump.

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Free Book of the Month: July

Summer is finally here and its the perfect time to catch up on all the books you’ve been meaning to read. If your bookshelf is looking a little bare (or even if it isn’t) its time to stock up again with July’s Free Book of the Month from UPK. This month we’re bringing you the gorgeous photographs of John Francis Ficara with an essay by Juan Williams in Black Farmers in America.

Black Farmers in America reproduces in duotone over a hundred of Ficara’s exquisite photographs that capture the labor and joy of daily life on the family farm. In these poignant images of financial hardship, survival, and the people’s bond to the soil, Ficara documents for posterity the struggle of black farmers in America at the end of the twentieth century to preserve their heritage.

“Just as John Ficara captures poignant images of Black farmers, Juan Williams . . . complements these stunning images with enlightened, descriptive, and thoughtful narrative.”–(Lexington, KY) Key Newsjournal

“Elegaic. . . . Makes it clear that something is being lost, that some tether to our agrarian roots will soon be severed.”– Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sign Up HERE for your FREE BOOK

Please limit one per customer, while supplies last, offer expires August 1, 2011open to U.S. residents only