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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > EASTSIDER FRANCESCO SCAVULLO
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Photographer of the world's most beautiful women


As Richard Stolley, the managing editor of People magazine, is fond of saying, every publication on the newsstand is actually two publications. One is the inner contents, and the other — far more important in terms of sales — is the front cover. A stunning cover can make the difference of tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for a national magazine, and that's why Cosmopolitan has engaged the talents of photographer Francesco Scavullo for virtually every one of its covers for the last 11 years.

He has done album covers and posters for Paul McCartney, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Judy Collins and many others. Among the publications that rely on his most often for covers are Vogue, Playboy, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, People and the magazine that started it all — Seventeen — which ran its first Scavullo cover in 1948, when he was still a teenager himself.

He never had any formal training in photography, but got plenty of practice during his Manhattan boyhood when he began taking pictures of his sisters and their girlfriends. Francesco delighted in applying makeup to their faces, running his hands through their hair, and dressing them in sexy gowns. He quickly made two discoveries — first, that there's no such thing as an ugly woman, and second, that the photographer and his subject must be personally compatible. Although he charges approximately $3,000 for unsolicited private portraits, Scavullo won't photograph anyone with whom he has bad rapport — and that includes all people who don't take care of themselves physically or abuse themselves with drugs.

A small, lithe man of 50 who walks with the gracefulness of a dancer and looks considerably younger than his years, Scavullo recently agreed to an interview at the town house on East 63rd Street that serves as both his studio and his home. Dressed in blue jeans, an open-neck white shirt, and Western boots, the chatty, unpretentious photographer sat back on the couch with his arms behind his head and a mischievous smile planted on his face. Asked about the large pills he popped into his mouth from time to time, Scavullo explained that they were vitamins and organic supplements.

"I'm very health-conscious," he said in a gravelly voice with a broad New York accent. "I don't eat meat, and I very seldom have even chicken or fish. I don't drink tea, or coffee, or alcohol — except for a little wine. … A lot of people stop smoking when they start working for me, because I hate it — all this pollution in the air of New York already. I think smoki............
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