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Remembering Eva Sereny Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

19 June 2021

Eva Sereny, who captured unforgettable images of movies stars in unguarded moments on the sets of now classic movies, passed away late last month in London following complications from a stroke. She was 86.

Not one to waste an opportunity, she learned directing from the top tier directors she photographed for, including Mike Nichols, Francois Truffaut, Federico Fellini, Steven Spielberg and Werner Herzog. Her 1984 30-minute short feature The Dress featuring Michael Palin buying a dress for his mistress won a BAFTA award.

And in 1994, she made her feature film Foreign Student starring Robin Givens and Marco Hofschneider about a football-playing French exchange student who falls in love in racially-sensitive America.

She was born in Zurich to Hungarian parents. Her father was a chemist and her mother an actress. When her father traveled to England on business before World War II, he found it impossible to return to the continent. Eva and her mother joined him in England in 1940.

When she was 20 she moved to Italy and married Vincio Delleani, an engineer. They had two sons, Riccardo and Alessandro.

In 1966, Delleani was in a serious auto accident in Rome.

"It was a close call," Sereny recalled the situation. "I remember sitting beside him in the hospital thinking my God, but for a few seconds, I would be a widow. I've got to do something. I'm quite artistic, though I can't draw. What about photography?"

'It's how you approach people: life is about that.'

Delleani built a darkroom in their basement for her and she learned the craft using his Rollieflex. A friend who headed the Italian Olympic committee asked her to document a series of new sports centers being built throughout the country.

She took her portfolio of the athletes training in these new complexes to London, arriving at the offices of The Times unannounced. Three days later a full page of her photos was published as a behind-the-scenes look at Italy's upcoming Olympic team.

A published photographer now, she asked a friend who was a publicist in Rome about shooting stills on the set of a film she knew was shooting in her neighborhood. The director was picky about photographers, the friend warned, but she allowed to spend a few days shooting on the set at Piazza Navona, developing the prints at home at night.

When she shared the images with director Mike Nichols, he asked her to stay on as a special photographer for the film Catch-22.

That led to more work on movie sets, focusing on the actors away from their roles without intruding upon them. She described her approach, "It's how you approach people: life is about that."

She photographed on the sets of Luchino Visconti's Death In Venice; Francois Truffaut's Day for Night (1973), The Deep (1977), Inchon (1981) and The Greek Tycoon; Federico Fellini's Casanova and Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris.

In the 1980s, she shot on the sets of the first three Indiana Jones films: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Her images include portraits of Jacqueline Bisset, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Mia Farrow, Jane Fonda, Harrison Ford, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, Al Pacino, Luciano Pavarotti, Charlotte Rampling, Robert Redford, Romy Schneider, Meryl Streep and Elizabeth Taylor plus images of film directors Visconti, Truffaut, Fellini, Bertolucci, Werner Herzog, Sydney Pollack, Fred Zinnemann, Peter Bogdanovich, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

Her more formally posed portraiture work appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine, Newsweek, Vogue, Paris Match, Elle and Harper's Bazaar.

Through Her Lens: The Stories Behind the Photography of Eva Sereny was published in 2018. The 224-page book is a retrospective of her career including 100 newly-published images and the stories behind them.

She is survived by her partner Frank Charnock, who she met in 2009, and her two sons. Delleani pre-deceased her in 2007 after 50 years of marriage.

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