Inheritors Battle for Artist’s Sexualized Celebrity Photo Archive
The surviving partner of the renowned fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo is fighting for possession of the artist’s legendary photo archives reports The New York Post. But Scavullo’s family and the executors of his $1.5 million estate claim that the photo archives are not part of the "tangible property" Scavullo left Sean Byrnes in his will.
Burt Reynolds nude, Barbara Streisand’s famous profile and scandalously revealing photos of a very young Brooke Shields, along with the faces of some of the most famous celebrities of the late 20th century, are all part of the revolutionary view that Scavullo brought to photography. Along with his Cosmopolitan covers, Scavullo created some of the most iconic celebrity photos of the 1970s and 80s.
According to the New York Times, Byrnes began assisting Scavullo in 1972 to produce and design his covers for Cosmopolitan magazine. They worked together for more than 20 years and lived together for 34 years until the photographer’s death, in January 2004. Byrnes assisted with choosing models, selecting their provocative clothing and supervising their hair and makeup. This process became referred to as "scavullo-ization."
"In sum, Byrnes was half of the Scavullo creative process and photography business," claims attorney, Gary Mennitt, in papers filed last week in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court. Mennitt maintains that Byrnes had "an intimate, unique, working knowledge of the archive."
On behalf of her brother, Byrnes’ sister, Anne Kramer, insists that the photo archives are "tangible property", and that he is entitled to half of them, including a portrait of Andy Warhol that has gathered up to $25,000 in usage fees.
"[Kramer] felt compelled to act for her brother, to secure him what life partner Francesco indicated he wanted for Sean," Mennitt told the Post.
Scavullo’s niece Angela Scott and friend Michael Horowitz, the executors of the estate, claim in court papers that the artist only intended Byrnes to benefit through payments from a trust, half of which goes to a foundation in Scavullo’s name to benefit underprivileged children and AIDS patients.
In 2009, Byrnes was found incompetent after being charged with criminal trespass for approaching children at a Hampton’s school. He now lives under the guardianship of his sister in a Brooklyn medical facility, where he is being treated for a depression that reportedly followed Scavullo’s death.
Though attorneys for the executors did not comment, Byrnes’ representation asserts that he is owed the photos and that the executors have failed to make distributions to the trust for nine years.
Kramer maintains in her court filings that she is paid a mere $2,000 a month from the estate and is in "dire financial need."
’’Somebody’s got to come out for a view of life that is beautiful,’’ Scavullo said of his work in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1976, cited by The New York Times in his obituary.
’’’I know there are times of unrest. But I also know there is beauty.’’’ The words reflected his lifelong philosophy."