“I started working in music and photography quite by chance. My ex-husband Dominique worked as a photographer at Ciao2001 magazine, while I was a student and one day he gave me a small Minox camera to take to a concert of the Italian band Banco del Mutuo Soccorso at the Tenda a Strisce Theatre in Rome. By absolute chance, that happened to be a particularly spectacular concert so while my husband shot in front of the stage, I had fun taking pictures from the stalls. That experience was so exhilarating that on our way back I said: “You know what? I want to be a rock photographer!” Shortly after, Dominique had to leave Ciao2001 and suggested I could replace him. Even though I wasn’t technically strong, I already had a good eye for composition, thanks to my architecture studies, and seemed to possess good reflexes. Dominique introduced me to the magazine’s editor, and in the blink of an eye I was hired as a photographer.”
Front of stage in 80s Italy with photographer Patrizia Savarese
“When I began shooting, I was very young and worked mostly for an Italian music weekly magazine called Ciao2001,” recalls Patrizia from her studio in Umbria, amongst the hills of central Italy. “I always remain tied to those early days. That part of my career allowed me to meet my teenage idols such as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Santana, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Brian Ferry and Queen as well as so many others!” Starting almost by chance in the early 1980s, music photography was Patrizia Savarese’s first step into a professional career in photography quickly becoming a familiar figure in front of Italy’s most important rock stages. She soon advanced to shooting backstage and became a tour photographer for various bands including Spandau Ballet. The following images and editorial are taken from a MAG_BTMMusic Archive Gallery: Beyond The Music interview outlining her highlights as a music photographer in 80s Italy.
Patrizia Savarese is one of the few ladies of rock photography in Italy. Gentle in manners and appearance, yet she is endowed with a grit and obstinacy worthy of a wrestler. It is no coincidence that she managed to climb the stages of half a continent, escaping the most fearsome security services.Daniela Amenta, journalist & writer
Sadly many of Patrizia’s photos taken for Ciao2001 remain only as reproductions., the originals having been lost when the magazine suddenly shut down and the archive dismantled somehow mysteriously. Despite this, Patrizia’s work is well-documented, and she is well remembered among those she worked with having being one of the few female music photographers in Italy at the time.
“I was really enthusiastic, but it took alot of effort on my part. Dealing with some situations in the pit was not easy for a woman especially in the early 80s when photographers were mixed up with the audience. We didn’t even have a security corridor and I often found myself shooting while being crushed against the stage. Things got better later on, but I still remember those terrifying days taking photographs at punk concerts while being pushed and in the crossfire of lots of spit!”
“A tour I covered with great passion was the Italian tour of the Rolling Stones organised by David Zard in Naples and Turin in 1982. It was exactly during the Football World Cup in which Italy won 3 -1 over West Germany…!”
“This photograph in particular is quite unique as you can see Mick throwing a bucket of water on the audience from the stage. It was mid-July and there were 25.000 people that evening in Turin and they were fainting from the heat. I don’t know how many people were actually refreshed by the bucket of water that Jagger threw, but I know that myself and my camera got the full brunt of it the moment after taking this shot!”
My photos from that Rolling Stones tour also ended up in a book, Rolling Stones in Italia, by Cesare Pierleoni published by Mondadori…
“Many will remember Mick Jagger performing the Turin show wrapped in the Italian flag. The most extraordinary thing was that he predicted the final result of the match to the whole crowd before the match that night and he totally nailed it! After the concert the streets of Turin were packed with cheering fans with flags. It was a great atmosphere.”
Brian May at Sanremo
“Sanremo is one of the most important and longest-running music festivals in Italy and I’ve been there several times to photograph artists, running from one hotel to another and working with impossible schedules. It’s always a nightmare work-wise but there are always hilarious times and memorable encounters such as mine with Brian May.
Queen were invited to perform at Sanremo in 1984, and I was asked by the festival to accompany him on an interview and take photographs. Freddie was already ill so it photographs were forbidden of him. I remember him quickly waving at us from a balcony and then leaving. Brian May was happy as a replacement and I ended up photographing him surrounded by his children’s toys who were on tour in Italy with him!”
Letting your fandom shine through!
“I was one of the five official photographers of Bruce Springsteen’s 1985 tour. I remember the first gig was so exciting we spent the first song dancing in front of the stage instead of shooting! The Boss was incredible and we were just 1 metre away.
During that tour I had another encounter with Springsteen quite by accident. At the time I had a studio in Rome above a gym and one afternoon I saw a guy lifting weights who looked identical to the Boss! I asked the gym manager but he firmly denied it but I didn’t buy it. I tried to get a little closer and suddenly a huge security guy appeared… It was him!
I ran back to my studio, took one of the photos I shot at his concert off the wall, and rushed down to the gym with the print under my arm to get it signed which Bruce did. You know… no matter how long you’ve worked in this industry, sometimes you experience those ‘superfan’ moments!”
“I met Bob Dylan at a press conference in Verona for his 1984 tour with Carlos Santana. He was sitting at a table answering reporters which is something he has never enjoyed doing very much.”
“At the end of the press conference, I edged towards Dylan. I wanted him to sign my press kit but moved so quickly that I must have startled him as for a man who was usually shy and actually quite grumpy, he just autographed my press kit. I remember some others tried to do the same but he immediately sneaked away.”
Photographing Italian artists: NYC wtih Gianna Nannini
“I have photographed many major Italian artists in my career, from bands like Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and Litfiba, to singers and songwriters such as Lucio Dalla, Francesco De Gregori, Angelo Branduardi and Fabrizio De Andrè. Among them, Gianna Nannini definitely stood out.
Gianna was the only female rock artist in Italy in the early 80s, and I had the chance to travel with her and her band to New York in 1982. Those were the years of Gianna’s album Latin Lover, following her first big success, the single America.”
“When we landed in New York I asked my friend Carlo Medori, who lived there and was a guide for Italians in search of adventure in the city, if he could show us around and take us to places where on our own we might not be comfortable going to. He brought us to meet a motorcycle gang that he knew. They were rather scary with their tattoos and leather jackets but we thought that New York’s murals and that wild bunch would make a perfect set for a photo-shoot with Gianna.
I didn’t feel totally comfortable around those riders but Gianna instead happily took pictures with them and asked the gang leader to take her for a ride. When we saw her disappear on the back seat of that motorbike we were all a bit concerned I have to admit, but she came back safe and sound in the end. That remained one of our NY stories I will remember!”
The last big tour: Spandau Ballet
“The last tour I took part in was Spandau Ballet’s 1986 European tour when the band was promoting the album Through the Barricades. I was the official photographer for England, Scotland, Spain and Italy.”
“As we were in the UK in December during the Christmas holidays, we stopped for a break in London. Spandau showed me around and took me to a few of the city’s flamboyant clubs and discos but, most of all, that was a time for us to rest and for the band to be with their families.”
The last big tour: Spandau Ballet
“I remember having lunch in a very ordinary restaurant with Steve Norman’s family on Christmas day. They were absolutely lovely people and there was nothing ‘rock-n-roll’ about the day at all. It was the same with the New Year Eve’s party at Tony Hadley’s house a few days later. You might imagine a wild party filled with revelry and excess even but in fact it was a quiet and lovely affair with family and friends playing board games. We even played ‘spin the bottle’ which I used to play as a teenager!”
The last big tour: Spandau Ballet
Magazine cuttings of Spandau Ballet photographed by Patrizia Savarese. Courtesy of Patrizia Savarese
Following the tour Patrizia met Duran Duran who had seen her photos of Spandau and was interested in her for their upcoming tour. It didn’t end up working out in the end but shortly afterwards Patrizia decided to stop working as a music photographer. “Sometimes I think about that decision with a bit of regret”, she muses, “I could have toured the world with Duran Duran and Madonna, but I left the music industry overnight instead. That’s how I function though, I often change direction all of a sudden!”
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