Seven seminal images by Francis Giacobetti

Francis Giacobetti is the photographer who brought elegance to nude photography. Whether shot in his Paris studio, or on the beaches of the Bahamas, Giacobetti’s studies of the body play with light and form with the mastery of a virtuoso.

Born in Marseille to Corsican parents in 1939, Giacobetti came of age in his craft in a time when the sexual revolution was influencing every level of society, culture and art. Inspired by the work of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, he took the very American concept of the pinup and reinvented it through the lens of French culture, with charm and a subtle sense of humour.

Giacobetti led the photography of Lui magazine during a period when Penthouse and Playboy were perfecting the art of glamour. Taking a different approach, the image maker banned any retouching – preferring to work with light alone to create his visuals.

This often meant fashioning his own light boxes using tracing paper, or creating his signature Bahamian dark skies by placing worn out sunglasses in front of the lens. Using Kodachrome Asa 25 film – a slow film, his shoots allowed for long, slow poses from the models – putting them at ease, and leaving room for every curvature of the body to be bathed in light and shade.

One of his most striking series, Zebras, Irises, Hymn manipulated beams of light across the subjects’ bodies to give the appearance of zebra stripes – the effect is sublimely surreal and stylish.

Incredibly prolific, Giacobetti produced work for Lui under 14 different pseudonyms allowing him to experiment with his style, while also producing the imagery for the Pierelli calendars in the early 1970s.   Throughout his career, a reverence for women and their bodies has drawn him to capturing some of the most iconic figures of our time – from his classic portraits of Jane Fonda, Carla Bruni, to his minimalist study of Grace Jones’ face.

Whether photographing a famous face or an unknown model – Giacobetti’s images manage to communicate mystery and desire in a way that never crosses the line into objectification. The space, the contours, the contrasts – each photograph resonates with warmth, intrigue and enigmatic beauty.

The work of Francis Giacobetti is celebrated in Giacobetti – a new book for Assouline written by Jerome Neutres – find out more on the Assouline website and explore more in the gallery below

WordsFiona Mahon
All imagesFrancis Giacobetti courtesy of Assouline Publishing