Benno Graziani passed away in May at the age of 95. Just a few weeks ago, he came to the gallery for the vernissage of Jean-Marie Périer’s exhibition “Fashion Galaxy,” cheerful and full of humor as we always knew and loved him.
An eager young man, he joined the founding team of Paris Match after the war. Wreathed with the esteem of the great reporters, he spotted a lovely girl whom he married and introduced to the House of Dior, Bettina Graziani.
A few years later, he enchanted—in all good honor—a no less charming American, Jackie Bouvier, soon Kennedy. Their friendship lasted for life.
But his reports were not limited to the chronicles of the jet set. He toured the theaters of wars, from Israel to Afghanistan. He met many heads of state and major industrialists—like Gianni Agnelli with whom he had a long and solid friendship.
In 2001, the Metropolitan Museum of New York exhibited around fifteen of his photographs, which were then shown at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. Subsequently, he devoted himself to writing an autobiography and reordering his archives. We have exhibited with him in London, Los Angeles, New York, Deauville and of course Paris.
“Benno is a lot of fun, but he’s always got a camera in his hand,” President John Kennedy warned Clint Hill, assigned to the First Lady’s Secret Service. The President was concerned images of Jackie taken on holiday by her friend “Benno” would feature too many glasses of wine or skimpy bathing suits. Kennedy’s description suited Gilbert “Benno” Graziani (b.1923). Photographer Benno Graziani’s iconic black and white images of the stars of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies recall halcyon days when it was always sunny, the women were always beautiful and life was good. The legendary publication Paris Match was there – and he asserts that’s exactly how it was, as the magazine encouraged the young photographers to “spend what you want” and “live like kings” on the condition they produced quality images. Graziani was friends with some of the biggest celebrities of his era. He was the inspiration for Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Throughout an incredible career he became close to many stars; including Kirk Douglas, Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Brigitte Bardot and Princess Grace of Monaco amongst others, and as such gained unprecedented access. Having met as journalists while Jacqueline Kennedy, then Jacqueline Bouvier, was working for the Washington Times Herald in the 1950’s, Graziani had the privilege of documenting the Kennedy lifestyle when she became First Lady. “She (Jackie) began as a reporter- photographer and led a truly exceptional life, a fairy tale transformed into Greek tragedy. Today she is part of history.” Graziani adds, “There are people who make history, those who endure it, and there are those who tell about it. That’s me.”