Francesco Scavullo was an American fashion photographer best known for his work on the covers of Cosmopolitan and his celebrity portraits. Born in Staten Island, Scavullo began to pursue his fascination with images of beauty by picking up his father’s camera and taking snapshots, using his sisters as models. After graduating from high school in 1945, Scavullo began working for a studio that produced fashion catalogs. He soon moved on to Vogue. Scavullo spent three years as Horst P. Horst’s assistant, studying Horst’s techniques. In 1948, he created a cover for Seventeen that won him a contract with the magazine. Scavullo’s soon opened his own studio in Manhattan.
In 1969, Scavullo painted singer Janis Joplin, with a cigarette in her hand, a picture exhibited at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The museum poster refers to Joplin, who died in 1970, as having a “free-spirited fervor of the counterculture revolution.”
Some of Scavullo’s more controversial work included a Cosmospolitan centerfold of a nude Burt Reynolds, and photographs of a young Brooke Shields that some considered overly sexual. He also befriended a young teenager from Philadelphia, future supermodel Gia Carangi, whose career he was largely responsible for launching. Later, when Carangi’s heroin addiction made it impossible for her to find work, Scavullo continued to employ her and support her until her eventual death from complications relating to AIDS.