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AMERICAN ICONS – STEVE SCHAPIRO

A new iconic exhibition held at Fellini Foundation in Sion, Switzerland from 14th june to 1st September 2019 dedicated to one of the greatest American photographers, Steve Schapiro.

Specialized in photojournalism, he is also famous for his photos of legendary films such as The Godfather or Taxi Driver.

An admirer of Henri Cartier Bresson for his journalistic photographs, Steve Schapiro quickly turned to this kind of image. It was then with William Eugene Smith, an emblematic figure of American photojournalism, that he practiced and learned photographic techniques. From 1961, Steve Schapiro embarked on a career as a freelance photojournalist and had his pictures published in world-renowned magazines such as Life, Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, Time and Paris Match. The political, cultural and social upheavals of the 1960s in the United States provided Schapiro with a particularly stimulating environment for his work and enabled him to assert himself as a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker.

 

« I TRAVELED WITH BOBBY KENNEDY AND DID HIS CAMPAIGN POSTERS. I PHOTOGRAPHED THE SELMA MARCH WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. I DID ANDY WARHOL IN THE FACTORY AND MUHAMMAD ALI WHEN HE WAS STILL CASSIUS CLAY. I PHOTOGRAPHED EVERYTHING, FROM PRESIDENTS TO POODLES »

Steve Schapiro

 

THE EXHIBITION

Inspired by the technical skill of Henri Cartier-Bresson for whom he had a particular admiration, Steve Schapiro (born 1934) began to teach himself how take photographs in the streets of New York. At the start of the sixties he learns his craft with William Eugene Smith, a prominent figure in American photojournalism, then launches himself into a freelance career. The political and social turmoil in the decade will provide the young photographer with a truly stimulating environment for his work and allow him very quickly to establish himself as a photojournalist and documentary maker. His outstanding images, for example of Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign (1965) or of Martin Luther King Jr. during his famous Selma march (also 1965), appear in world-class magazines such as Life, Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, Time and Paris Match, in the process propelling Steve Schapiro’s career into the international sphere.

In 1969 Steve Schapiro is invited onto the set of John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy, starring Dustin Hoffman, a film marking the start of the rich period of “New Hollywood”. The memorable photographs he takes during the filming will contribute to the acclaim for the film. Courted by numerous producers, he is subsequently engaged on the sets of cult movies such as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972, 1974, 1990) or Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) where Schapiro will take a series of iconic photographs of Robert de Niro. Also closely involved with the world of music, he will take some remarkable portraits of Barbra Streisand, David Bowie and also The Velvet Underground, the legendary group which was formed from Andy Warhol’s “Factory”.

Politics, social movements, cinema, music and more personal subjects like a report on poverty in the streets of Harlem – in each of these different areas Steve Schapiro has succeeded in capturing the emotion and meaning at that moment with force, talent and a sense of humanity. Today, at almost eighty-five, Schapiro continues with work rather documentary in nature. His recent series of photographs have focused on India, music festivals and the African-American movement Black Lives Matter. An extraordinary career but a man who is still curious, mischievous and always in search of the most beautiful photograph which, according to him, is still to be taken… What modesty!

Given that he has known the greatest stars and politicians of the last fifty years, been exhibited in the most prestigious institutions from Los Angeles to New York, via Paris or Amsterdam, and is today doing us the honor of presenting his work at the Fellini Foundation in Sion, Steve Schapiro deserves the title of icon of American photography.

Nicolas Rouiller

Exhibition Curator

 

The work of Steve Schapiro not only belongs to the contemporary heritage of photography and cinema, it also represents in its own right a veritable iconology. In the same instant his images capture an emotion and sense of history. A woman’s face which expresses all the hope of the people during Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign, Martin Luther King Jr. leading a march in Selma for civil rights – these fleeting moments more than half a century old are not merely frozen in a shot. They are focal points highlighting a crucial moment when America changed.”

Stéphane Marti

President of Fellini Foundation

 

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