Fellini | William Klein

Fellini 1956 | Photograph 29,5 x 41,33 Inch

Discover the biography and all work of the artist

This portrait of Fellini was taken by William Klein in 1964. The close-up on the face of the film director is typical of Klein’s work: he approaches his subject with trust, and there is no fear there. To the contrary, Fellini allows himself a malicious smile: a cup of coffee in his hand in the foreground, he looks down to his left, as if visualising something.  His expression seems reminiscent of the characters in his film La Strada, and the style of the photography is consistent with this: the film is grainy, the image lightly contrasted and very slightly blurred.

Fellini, who had been impressed by the work that Klein had recently completed in New York (Life is Good And Good for You in New York, 1956), invited the photographer to Rome where he quickly became one of the director’s assistants on the film, Nights of Cabiria. However when filming was postponed for financial reasons, Klein took advantage of situation and, guided by Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alberto Moravia, began to photograph the city.  This work led to  Rome : The City and Its People (1959), a photography book that captured the city’s slow rhythms and sense of community, and the joy and elegance of its inhabitants. 

William Klein, born in New York in 1928, started out training as a painter in Paris with Fernand Léger before entering the world of photography and cinema.  Despite having no formal training as a photographer, Klein was hired by Alexander Liberman for the magazine Vogue.  His most iconic shots, with a typically geometric aesthetic, were taken in the world of fashion. Klein was a master of location, and in his work the streets of a city become very special settings.  After Rome, Klein continued his portraits of big cities with two further publications: Moscow (1964) and Tokyo (1964).

In this portrait Klein captures Fellini in a private moment, but Fellini - at least in terms of his thoughts - seems to be focussed on his work.  It is as if Fellini is remembering or creating a scene, and in doing so the director - not without a certain sense of mischief - invites the photographer into his world, thus enabling Klein to immortalise, in all his splendour and purity, one of Italy’s greatest personalities.