Francesco Scavullo – Lighting Master

Francesco Scavullo

was born in New York in 1921. He began his journey with his father’s camera and taking snapshots, using his sisters as models. It was like he already knew that “beauty”, in some form, was to be his life. A couple of years after high school he was already assisting Horst P. Horst. Barely out of high school, he already created a cover for Seventeen magazine that got him a contract.




Francesco Scavullo and his Hasselblad

He was young and already traveling at the speed of light. By the 60’s, he had pretty much settled on the Hasselblad 500 (C), and used that camera for most of his career. That and one strobe. In fact, many people attribute the whole ‘diffused’ light craze to Scavullo, that continues to this day. (umbrellas, softboxes, etc) Remember, Avedon was mostly using the window light in his studio at that time.


Hasselblad 500 C


It would be next to impossible for a month to go by in the 1970’s and 1980’s without being exposed to a Scavullo image. Especially Cosmopolitan covers. He was really good with his models, and made even celebrities very comfortable in front of his lens. Even the infamous Burt Reynolds nude layout! This was in a day and age without the “I’ll fix it in post.” mentality. We sometimes forget most of these images were achieved in camera and sans touchup.


Salvador Dali


The One Light Master

Francesco Scavullo was a true master, gracing the covers and pages of not only Cosmopolitan, but also Seventeen, Harper’s Bazaar, and Rolling Stone. He was the man who made “cleavage and windswept hair” cool. His Andy Warhol/Studio 54 lifestyle embodied all the extravagances of the age. He could party with the best of them. And, yes, he was once arrested for walking nude on Park Avenue while holding a sign demanding that Marilyn Monroe be made the patron saint of Hollywood! Psycho? Maybe. Cool? Definitely.


Kate Moss


Study the Book!

Francesco Scavullo was a Master of the ‘single light source’, and worked with just a basic Hassy and lens. His work and lighting is finally being seriously studied by young photographers. Remember that during his reign, fashion and beauty photography was basically a genre considered an afterthought. Francesco Scavullo died in 2004 at the age of 82, but the mark he left is finally being studied carefully,…especially by one light fans trying to emulate the always simple but sensual work he produced. His book Scavullo on Beauty is a must have for collectors and students of lighting.







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