In La Dolce Vita (Abrams $85), Christopher Sweet collects Slim Aarons’ photographic work of six decades traveling through Italy. The images capture the savoir-faire of people with great style. Sweet was Aarons’ editor for many years, and as their professional relationship grew ever closer, their friendship also lasted until the photographer’s death.
Lalla Spagnol and fashion designer Gianni Versace on a boat in front of his seventeenth-century Villa Fontanelle, 1983. Photo: Slim Aarons / G.I.
George Allen Aarons was born in Manhattan, October 29, 1916. He was nicknamed “Slim” because of his slender body. His first trip to Italy was as a soldier and war photographer during World War II. He was only 18 years old when he joined the U.S. Navy.
Convinced that as a photographer he could offer a vision beyond the ravages of war, he went to the offices that Life magazine had opened in Rome in 1948. He left behind a job as freelance celebrity photographer in Hollywood, where he lived after the war. Aarons would eventually fall in love with Rome and the Italian lifestyle. He moved to the Excelsior Hotel and began covering glamorous events like the wedding of Tyrone Power and Linda Christian.
He furthers his career, photographing “attractive people involved in attractive activities in attractive places”, in his own words. He develops his own style, natural, realistic photographs with a personality and life of their own. The beautiful people of the high society welcomed him into their lives. Paparazzi weary celebrities invited him to their parties and allowed him to capture moments and images that had never been available to other photographers. They would comfortably pose for Aarons in their own villas, without the presence of makeup artists, stylists or hairdressers. Aarons became the photographer of the European society for magazines such as Holiday and Town & Country, with which he kept a long professional relationship.
Donna Fabrizia Lanza di Mazzarino in the garden of her grandparents’ Villa Tasca d’Almerita, Palermo, 1984. Photo: Slim Aarons / G.I.
Donna Lanza di Trabia Raimonda, granddaughter of the Prince of Sicily, poses in her Palazzo Trabia; Anna Cataldi poses with her daughter Jacaranda Falck; Pia Ruspoli, Princess of Cerveteri, Marcello Mastroianni, George Hamilton, Ursula Andress, Italian designer Gianni Versace on Lake Como, and the Pucci family in Tuscany are just a few of the personalities that posed for Aarons’ lens and are included in this wonderful book. But it was his romance with actress Joan Fontaine, while she was filming September Affair in Italy, that compelled Sweet to create this book.
Cover La Dolce Vita.
The prolific and legendary photographer died on May 29, 2006 in New York. Although his permanent residence was in Bedford, an exclusive area in upstate New York, also home to celebrities like Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren and Richard Gere, Aarons continued travelling to Italy, a country that seduced him. The photographer remained in love with the Sicilian fields and the colors of the Roman streets until the end.
La Dolce Vita is a tribute to an American photographer. Like in Once Upon a Time and Poolside with Slim Aarons, we can see why he conquered the affection of celebrities and aristocrats. ■