Talk: Bettina Cirone

The latest addition to The Colony is celebrity photographer, Bettina Cirone. Take a look at an excerpt of our interview with the artist below.

BoyGeorge by bettina cirone 012 (Small)

LC: After having your treasured prints stolen and other unfortunate events, how are you?
BC: Pretty Miffed. Especially because I know who did it. But I had no videotaped proof.

LC: Can you tell us about the hand-drawn illustration Dali gave you?
BC: Dali gave me a book he drew in called Diary of a Genius.  He drew Don Quixote on a beautiful rearing stallion with a woman standing in the background. He signed the book to me and called me “Mon Ami Bettina” after he painted me and drew sketches of me. He also gave me for my birthday a blue lion that he signed to me.  Several posters, including one for the opening of his museum in Florida that he signed to me and another  lithograph that he drew a couple offigures on and signed twice.  Every year before he returned to his home in Spain, he would invite me to come and spend the Summer but I was always busy working modelling jobs for catalog companies and never fot around to accepting his invitatations.  I did accept many of his invitations here in New York though, including private dinners with he and Gala and parties in his St Regis Hotel suite.

SharonStone&Valentino photo by bettina cirone 076 (Small)

LC: How has growing up in multiple cultures affect you and your work?
BC: I did not begin travelling until I left my parents home in Brooklyn when I was 21 and took off for Japan in 1955 despite my parents misgivings.    It was fascinating.  More enjoyable than any other career I ever had, including my modelling career. It gave me access to things, places and people I never imagined meeting.  It was wonderful and the best education in every way.  Certainly better than any school I attended.

Vreeland,Diana byBettinaCirone 6 84 (Small)

LC: If you can describe your work experience in one word, what would it be?
BC: “Eclectic.” My artsy pix appeared in the Guggenheim and the Contemporary Crafts Museum while I was still a model.  My architectural photos appeared in Architectural Digest, on covers of books and magazines when I worked for Lower Manhattan Development from 1971 to 1973.  My travel photos appeared on many magazine covers, on front pages of the Travel Section of The New York Times, on several language editions editions of National Geographic, on American Express publications, books, and on television news shows.

LC: We focus on highlighting subjects that are a hybrid of more than one medium of art or design, we think what you do fits that essence. Do you consider yourself as a “paparazzo” or a commercial photographer, or do you even care where the line is?
BC: A rose is a rose by any other name.  I never denied what anyone chose to call me or how they described me.  However, ioften had carte blanche and was invited to photograph many celebs in their homes including Isabella Rossellini, N Y Mayor John Lindsay, Sci Fi authors Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke at his home in Sri Lanka where he owned a diving school, Some people called me “the Paparazza with a heart!”  I thought it was funny even though I wasn’t a real papparazza.Warhol eating clock onGlassesbyBettinaCirone (Small)b

LC: Photographers “invade” privacy from celebrities. Based on your previous interviews, it seemed like celebrities give privacy to you.
BC: It was Frederico Fellini who would try to shoo the photographers away from Anita Ekberg  He would shout at them “Paparazzi” while he shooed them away with his hands.  In Italian the word paparazzi means “flees”. Ron Galella, who was one of those photographers, loved the word and “Paparazzo” and took it as an honored  description of himself, and put the insulting name on his calling cards.  After that, a new breed of photographer was born.  These were the tough guys who would stalk celebrities, stalk them on motor scooters,allegedly blamed for the death of Princess Diana, frightened some as Dianne Keaton, annoy others as Frank Sinatra and Warren Beatty and befriend them as Dolly Parton who invited Ron into her home and Madonna who was thrilled by the attention.  Jackie Kennedy seemed mainly amused. Paparazzi like the action shots. Ron would say, “My pictures  shows how the celebs really are.  They’re not posing.”

Full interview will be available on our book, April 2015.

Regine,iglesias&StevieWonder 300 byBettinaCirone