Jean Pigozzi : My World exhbition in Beijing - by Deng Zhangyu, China Daily
An exhibit in China features over 100 selfies an Italian photographer took with celebrities over four decades

When a picture of a group of celebrities taking a selfie at the Oscars went viral on social media, Jean Pigozzi was less than impressed-he has taken pictures of himself with celebrities across the globe since 1972.

The show, "Jean Pigozzi-My World", presents more than 100 photos-many are selfies that the Italian photographer took over the past four decades with big names, mainly from the entertainment industry.

Kate Moss, Elton John, Michael Douglas, Paris Hilton, Mick Jagger, Tom Hanks, Woody Allen and Andy Warhol and even luminaries like Steve Jobs and Henry Kissinger are among his famous subjects, caught at their most off-guard moments.

"I think I invented taking selfies, early in 1972. If one selfie is worth one dollar, I would be the richest man in the world," Pigozzi says, jokingly, at his show at Beijing's Ullens Center for Contemporary Art.

As he is speaking, he lifts his camera and quickly snaps a photo of himself-too quickly to be noticed.

In fact, Pigozzi doesn't see himself as a photographer. He would rather use the term "life recorder". His friend and the curator of the show Alexi Tan says it is the perfect description.

"The people he shoots and takes selfies with are close to him or his friends. It's different from being shot by a photographer. His friends trust him and reveal themselves naturally before his lens," Tan says.

Tan is a film director. He met Pigozzi at the Venice Film Festival in 2012.

"I thought he was very interesting and must be very passionate about life. And he is," Tan adds.

Son of the founder of European car company Simca, 62-year-old Pigozzi started taking photos of his daily life at 12 and never stopped. Living with dyslexia, he documented his daily life with a camera hung round his neck.

He first started taking photos of himself and then got to take selfies with friends close to him.

"When I asked my friends to take selfies, they didn't understand what I was doing," Pigozzi says, explaining the result couldn't be seen on the camera then.

Among the photos are some images of Steve Jobs, who Pigozzi says was an old friend of his.

There are Jobs' feet in sandals, Jobs answering a phone and Jobs working at home on his Apple computers. But no selfies.

"I think I just forgot to take selfies with him. He was unbelievable, quite serious and very interesting," Pigozzi says.

Pigozzi's friend Jerome Sans describes him as a travelling man. Sans says his friend always attends the Oscars or the Cannes Film Festival parties.

Pigozzi says he loves parties because people are relaxed in front of the lens and have more fun. If someone is alone in a room, it's easy for them to get nervous when being photographed.

No matter an insider or outsider, a trusted friend or a fan, Pigozzi's photos reflect moments of intimacy in the lives of the rich and famous.

Tan says Pigozzi's photos will give the Chinese a glimpse into the life of the Western glitterati.

It's the first time Pigozzi has held a show in China, although his exhibition has travelled to several countries. He selected some Chinese stars he has photographed to be featured in his first China show, including Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi and Zhang Jingchu.

Pigozzi has visited China many times. The first was in 1979 with an American artist.

"People were all riding bikes and all in blue when I first came. It's quite different now," Pigozzi says.

On the opening night of his show, Pigozzi is busy talking to friends and being introduced to visitors. But he never stops taking photos or selfies.

"You know, I need to take more than 100 photos in order to get a perfect one," he explains.

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