Poolside Photographs Immortalising a Bygone Hollywood Era

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Sharon Stone, 1992Photography by Jean Pigozzi

A new exhibition offers a rare glimpse into Jean Pigozzi’s lavish world, the centre of which is the photographer’s famous kidney-shaped swimming pool in the south of France

The pool at his family home – Villa Dorane in Cap d’Antibes, on the cusp of the Mediterranean – is almost as old as he is, says photographer, art collector and entrepreneur Jean Pigozzi – and it is “100 per cent part of him.” Almost every summer for the past 65 years, Pigozzi, who is the son of Henri Pigozzi, founder of the French carmaker Simca, has spent time by the pool, soaking up the rays and enjoying the luxury into which he was born.

For the last 30 years, Pigozzi has thrown exclusive parties at his villa, hosting the likes of Mick Jagger, Sharon Stone, Elle Macpherson, Naomi Campbell, Calvin Klein, Kristen McMenamy, and many other actors, models, rock stars, and members of the social elite. Pigozzi, who studied photography and film at Harvard University, took pictures of the people who came – friends and acquaintances, old and new – as they socialised and relaxed around his pool. In doing so he created a striking and intimate body of work that reveals a more open, informal side to some of the world’s most famous people.

As an exhibition of more than 30 of Pigozzi’s black and white photographs from the 1980s and 1990s opens at Galerie Gmurzynska St. Moritz, the photographer talks to AnOther about what goes on at his famous parties and his passion for photography.

On hosting an exhibition of his photographs in St. Moritz…
“I love the idea of doing a show about a pool in the snow – it’s kind of fun. It is like going on safari and wearing a Moncler jacket. I like the idea of doing something that is geographically a bit bizarre.”

On his personal favourites… and looking back on the past
“I like the pictures of great friends of mine, like the one of Mick Jagger throwing photographer Helmet Newton in the pool, or Elizabeth Taylor having her picture taken. Sadly, quite a few people have already passed away, so looking at the photographs brings back nice memories.”

On what his famous parties are like and who comes…
“I usually throw a big party during the Cannes Film Festival and then I have smaller parties – birthday parties etc. My parties are about having my friends around… They’re fun and relaxed. There is a buffet with good food. Everyone sits with each other. People drink rosé and have a good time. Every time the invitations say: ‘no bodyguards, no hair and make-up, no PAs.’ But people ask, ‘can I bring a friend?’ And usually it ends up being 150-200 guests. Some people have come for many years, others bring people who become new friends.”

“Every time the invitations say: ‘no bodyguards, no hair and makeup, no PAs’” Jean Pigozzi

On taking these images and his photographic approach…
“I’m very happy I took the photographs I did because they are an interesting document of all these years around this pool. I used to use a Leica camera loaded with film. Every time you took a picture you’d think, ‘Oh my God, that’s one dollar’, or whatever. I didn’t have a camera with a motor drive so I would never take too many pictures. I still use good cameras now, but they’re digital, so I take a few more pictures than I did before. But I try to take good pictures. I don’t like posed pictures – I find them really boring – so I try to make my photographs interesting, and as beautiful as possible.”

On Mick Jagger…
“I met Mick in 1975. I knew Bianca, his wife at the time, from Paris. I was in LA when the Stones were touring there, so she invited me to the concert. I clicked with Mick immediately and we’ve been friends for more than 40 years. He’s a fabulous guy – very intelligent, unpretentious, and hardworking. He’s fun, he tells stories, you can ask him questions, and he asks questions. He’s stayed with me many times, and we’ve been to a lot of interesting places together.”

On what drives him to take photographs…
“Everyday I wonder why I wake up wanting to take new pictures. It’s a complete obsession of mine and I’ve done it all my life. I wanted to keep a journal, but I’m dyslexic and I have horrible handwriting. I write things and I can’t read what I’ve written. So photography has been like a journal of my life. That’s what pushes me to take these pictures.”

Pool Party in the Snow at Galerie Gmurzynska St. Moritz opens February 19 and runs until March 26, 2017.