Eva Sereny, who has photographed movie stars at work, dies at 86
In 1972 Eva Sereny was in Rome to photograph rehearsals of “The Assassination of Trotsky”, starring Richard Burton as the Russian revolutionary, when his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, who was not in the film, visited the plateau.
One of Ms Sereny’s snaps captured a moment from the famous and eventful wedding of the famous stars, which was soon to come to an end: the two gazed at each other frostily, as if they were re-enacting the tensions between their characters in the film. from 1966 “Who’s Afraid by Virginia Woolf?
“It was obvious that something was going on,” she told The Guardian in 2018. “You could feel it – there was no great love between them. I don’t even remember them having noticed the photo, which was taken from a distance from below. If it had been a close-up of their faces, it would have been just two people not looking at each other very well. Body language brings it all together.
The Taylor-Burton photo was one of many notable images in Ms. Sereny’s decades-long career as a photographer, primarily on hundreds of film sets around the world. She has taken portraits, spontaneous snaps and publicity photos of stars including Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert De Niro, Jacqueline Bisset, Clint Eastwood, Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery and Harrison Ford.
Ms Sereny died on May 25 in a hospital near her home in London. She was 86 years old.
The cause was complications from a massive stroke, said Carrie Kania, creative director of Iconic Images, which manages Ms. Sereny’s archives and, with ACC Art Books, published “Through Her Lens: The Stories Behind the Photography of Eva Sereny “in 2018.
Mrs. Sereny was on hand for the first three Indiana Jones films and took a well-known portrayal of Mr. Ford, who played Jones, and Mr. Connery, who played his father, on the set of “Indiana Jones and the last crusade “. (1989). She was on the island of Mykonos for the filming of “The Greek Tycoon” in 1978 when she photographed Anthony Quinn dancing by the Aegean Sea.
And on the set of the erotic drama “Last Tango in Paris” by Bernardo Bertolucci (1972), she overcame Brando’s mistrust of photographers and photographed him laughing, lighting Mr. Bertolucci’s cigarette and to talk to his co-star, Maria Schneider.
“There was something very caring about the way he spoke to me,” she said on “Through Her Lens”. She recalled that she had told him that taking photos in unmasked moments produced “the most interesting frames” and that “he sympathized with my take and said,” Well, look, okay. “”
Eva Olga Martha Sereny was born in Zurich on May 19, 1935 to Hungarian parents. Her father, Richard, was a chemist; her mother, also named Eva, was an actress before their marriage.
When his father traveled to England on business shortly after the start of World War II, he was unable to return to Switzerland; Eva and her mother joined him in 1940. After the war, Mrs. Sereny opened a flower shop in the Burlington Arcade in London.
Eva’s career as a photographer didn’t start until long after arriving in Italy at the age of 20. There she married Vincio Delleani, an engineer, and had two sons, Riccardo and Alessandro. When her husband was in a car accident in 1966, she thought of a career.
“I remember sitting next to him in the hospital thinking, ‘My God, but for a few seconds I would be a widow,'” she told The Guardian. “I have to do something. I’m pretty artistic, though. I can’t draw. What about photography? ‘ “
Her husband set up a darkroom in the basement of their house and she started working with his Rolleiflex camera. A friend of his, who ran the Italian Olympic committee, asked him to take pictures of young athletes in training. She then tried her luck and flew to London, where she presented her work to The Times of London.
Shortly after showing his photos of the athletes to the newspaper’s editor, The Times printed several.
With the help of a film publicist in Rome, Ms. Sereny spent two weeks on the set of Mike Nichols’ “Catch-22” (1970). It was the first of hundreds of filmmaking assignments, which would lead to her photos being published in outlets like Elle, Paris Match, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Time, and Newsweek over the next 34 years.
One of her frequent subjects was Mme Bisset, whom she photographed first during the filming of “Day for Night” by François Truffaut (1973) then on the sets of “The Deep” (1977), “Inchon” (1981) and “The Greek Tycoon.
“She was refined in a very feminine way and loved her job,” Ms. Bisset said over the phone. “When we started she was bossy because I didn’t do what she wanted, but we became friends. She could be argumentative and she could make me laugh.
“One day she shook me when she said ‘Be sexy’ and I was like ‘What do you mean?’ It was such an impossible order, and I was asking, “What do you want me to do?” Be more specific. ‘”
Ms. Sereny’s work on film sets allowed her to study the technique of directors such as Nichols, Truffaut, Bertolucci, Federico Fellini (“Casanova”), Steven Spielberg (“Always” and the films of Indiana Jones) and Werner Herzog (“Nosferatu the vampire”).
In 1984, she directed her own film: “The Dress”, a 30-minute short film with Michael Palin, about a man who buys a dress for his mistress. It won the BAFTA award – the British equivalent of the Oscar – for best short film. A decade later, she directed a feature film, “Foreign Student”, about a French exchange student (Marco Hofschneider) at a Virginia university who falls in love with a young black high school teacher (Robin Givens) in 1956 , sensitive to race.
Reviewing this film for The Chicago Tribune, John Petrakis called it “a skillfully processed look at forbidden love that also finds time between kisses to examine the cultural differences in this classic fish out of the water tale. “.
Frustrated by the limited opportunities for female directors, especially those who were not young, Ms. Sereny did not direct any other films. She retired from photography in 2004.
Mrs. Sereny is survived by her sons; his partner, Frank Charnock; and four grandchildren. Her husband died in 2007.
In 1973, Ms Sereny was on the set of “The Last of Sheila,” a mysterious murder set on a yacht, and received approval from director Herbert Ross to photograph the cast as he rehearsed. But the sound of her shutter annoyed one of the stars of the film, Raquel Welch, who angrily requested that Ms Sereny leave because she had not been informed of his presence.
Years later, she was again assigned to photograph Ms. Welch.
“I just hoped and prayed that she wouldn’t recognize me or remember me,” Ms. Sereny said in “Through the Lens”. “Just pretend it never happened!”
“From the moment we met again,” she added, “everything was perfect. “