INGE FELTRINELLI Tried to Take Over the World with Photography

hamingway_2-copySteidl has released a photography compendium by Inge Feltrinelli, one of the most clever and fortuitous photojournalists of the mid-20th century. Feltrinelli’s photography career was rich and short; she gave it up in the 1960s to run one of Europe’s most significant publishing houses with her late husband, publisher and political activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Before marrying Giangiacomo, Inge Feltinelli was Inge Schoenthal, and she took pictures for publications such as Constanze, Spiegel, and Die Zeit. Because of her naturalness and good looks, she was able to capture last century’s most significant artists, celebrities, and politicians.

Feltrinelli owes her creative energy to a Henri-Cartier Bresson saying: “A good photograph always captures a decisive moment.” In 1952, she photographed Greta Garbo on Madison Avenue blowing her nose with a Kleenex. “She seemed to have a cold,” Feltrinelli remembers. “Nobody recognised her although she looked remarkable in her plum-colorer hat.” The same year, she seized an image of a young John F. Kennedy as Senator, flirting with Elizabeth Arden, likely trying to secure campaign funding from one of the richest women in America.

Feltrinelli had an aptitude to infiltrate the lives of even the most media-shy and arrogant celebrities. In 1953, she was sent to Cuba to visit Ernest Hemingway. After half a month of silence trying to reach Hemingway, Feltrinelli was invited to his Finca Vigía, where she stayed for weeks. “His ramblings about Stalin won me over.” It was there where she photographed the American writer passed out drunk on his floor midday. One of the most famous images she took of Hemingway includes her and his boatman, Gregoria Fuentes, out at sea hoisting a 30-kilo marlin. When criticized for including herself in too many of her photographs, Feltrinelli responded, “I was photogenic, and my stories sold better when I was the unifying element in the images.” By including herself in many of her photographs, Feltrinelli has become a precursor to Jürgen Teller and Terry Richardson.

After marrying Giangiacomo, Ingrid Fellitrini retired from photography to run the couple’s eponymous publishing house, pursuing her interest in authors and books. Yet images of her literary companions abound: Allen Ginsburg by the pool, Simon de Beauvoir at her desk, Fidel Castro playing basketball in Cuba. Feltrinelli’s new photography book, Mit Fotos die Welt erobern—a photo diary with handwritten notes and annotations—brings together these historic encounters. “At that time,” Feltrinelli remembers, “it was easy to reach the stars and take over the world.”

To read more about Ingrid Feltrinelli, see 032c’s interview with the photographer and publisher, “Seize the Right Moment.”

Greta Garbo, New York City, 1952

Giangiacomo Feltrinelli and Fidel Castro, Cuba, 1964

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Ernest Hemingway, Cuba, 1953