Anita Ekberg and Anthony Steel by Tazio Secchiaroli, Rome, Italy 1958
Photo credit: © WestLicht Photographica Auction

Anita Ekberg and Anthony Steel by Tazio Secchiaroli, Rome, Italy 1958

This photo shows the turn of events outside the nightclub Vecchia Roma, but also clearly reflects Steel’s aggression and Ekberg’s annoyance – supposedly, she had already given up on this marriage at the time the photograph was taken, and indeed the couple divorced only a few months later. Photo reports about the glamorous couple had started appearing the very moment they met: for example, on April 21, 1956 the tabloid Hollywood Films and their Stars reported on Steel’s exclamation that Ekberg was “the most gorgeous thing” he had ever seen.

Using a Leica MP, the “grandfather of all paparazzi” documented an attack on his profession, thereby illustrating its paradox and usurpatory strategy: making photographs of prominent people without their consent, in order to conquer a piece of privacy and thereby polish their public image. This photograph hints on the well-known picture in which Steel goes after the horde of photographers with clenched fists while Ekberg is just getting ready to leave the car, but also the images taken immediately before and after.

After the wedding, the British actor followed the “Swedish Bombshell” Ekberg to Hollywood – where both of their careers slowly stagnated, and Steel’s publicity was limited to reports on his excessive lifestyle. Secchiaroli was considered the first paparazzo since Federico Fellini had based the figure of the photographer bearing that name in La dolce vita (1960) on him. The film is also considered the high point of Anita Ekberg’s career, who played the main character opposite Marcello Mastroianni in it.

Reference: Paolo Costantini/Italo Zannier et al., Paparazzi, Fotografie 1953-1964, Florence 1988, p. 49; Tazio Secchiaroli, The Original Paparazzo, Milan 1996, p. 30f.; Diego Mormorio, Tazio Secchiaroli. Dalla dolce vita ai miti del set, Milan 1998, p. 46-47.