Santi Visalli’s Views

A career-capping coffee-table book of black & white photographs is about to be published that will very likely become a bestseller for Sicily-born, Santa Barbara-based photographer Santi Visalli. You’ll have to travel to Milan to participate in the release of “Visalli’s Icons,” a 170-page tome chock full of what amounts to a black & white recorded history of world culture circa 1960 to 2000. Everyone who was anyone in the latter half of the twentieth century – from a glamorous Jackie Kennedy (first lady at the time) to the Beatles to Salvador Dali, a young Robert De Nero, an even younger hippie-garbed Caroline Kennedy, the Shah of Iran and family before the fall, a pugilistic in-his-prime Muhammad Ali (the photo taken, incidentally, on the last day the famous fighter ever called himself “Cassius Clay”), and over a hundred other snapshots of event-movers of the day – were captured on film by Visalli.

During his 40-year career, Santi photographed six sitting presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan, and worked with film directors such as Federico Fellini, Lena Wertmuller, and others. Visalli’s photographs have graced the pages and covers of some 50 magazines and newspapers (The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Life, Forbes, Paris Match, Stern, and Oggi among them). Eight full-color coffee-table books featuring Visalli’s photographs are still in print and are perennial best-sellers in their respective locales: “Chicago,” “Boston,” “San Francisco,” “Los Angeles,” “Miami,” “New York,” “Washington DC,” and “Las Vegas.” All cities captured through the lenses of a master craftsman.

Santi will be in Milan, Italy on Friday, March 6, at Boggi on Piazza San Babila to sign copies of his new book; the following day, many of his original photographs will be on display at WavePhoto Gallery in Brescia, Italy (you are invited to call 011-39-030-294-2711 for more information). Europe’s biggest and best photo-illustration magazine, Zoom, is co-sponsor of the photographic exhibit.

If you are Santa Barbara-bound for the winter, however, there is a way to catch a semblance of Santi’s prodigious output.

“The show is at Santa Barbara Athletic Club, and is all about Santa Barbara,” Santi says during a visit to his house and a later telephone conversation. “It’s my views of Santa Barbara,” he continues, “and as you’ve seen, they are a little bit unusual.” (I have; they are). There are twenty mostly 16” x 22” color photographs in the show, and it’s worth a trip to the Athletic Club to view them, as the photos were taken between 2001 and the Tea Fire in 2008. (Santi moved with wife, Gayla, from New York, where they lived for 38 years, to Santa Barbara in 1999.)

“The first [in the series] is an image of St. Anthony Seminary, wrapped up in fog. It’s a view from my own terrace and I think it is one of the most spectacular views in Santa Barbara,” Santi says, adding that he can “see the Mission, the Islands, and the Seminary” from his patio. The last photo is one of Mt. Calvary Monastery, singed by the flames, “I thought it was the most iconic symbol of the Tea Fire,” he says.

Other photos include the mural in the courthouse, three different angles of Santa Barbara Mission, the Sedgwick Reserve in Santa Ynez, and four separate images of Montecito and elsewhere in and around Santa Barbara.

If you go, Visalli’s exhibit, which will run at the Athletic Club through the end of February, will be displayed in the long corridor at the entrance of the club as well as along the upstairs corridor leading to the cardio room.

For more information, please visit: santivisalli@cox.net.