Palm Beach resident Priscilla Rattazzi is a photographer, writer/storyteller, and environmentalist, who emigrated from Italy in the 1970’s. The youngest daughter of Susanna Agnelli, a best-selling author and politician who became the first female foreign minister of Italy, she was raised in a home of great privilege. Her mother instilled in her not only a passion for the environment, but the need to share that passion with others through art.
Nature has always been a dominant theme of Priscilla’s life and work, which ranged from fashion photography in the 1970’s working for publications such as Vogue Italia and New York magazine, to writing books and raising a family. That passion grew stronger as her life evolved. In November, 2020, The New York Times featured on the front page her stunning photographs of the giant stone formations of southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Hoodooland, first an exhibition and later a book, has been praised by literary and photography critics. Her work called attention to the unique, but endangered rock formations in the national monument.
One of Priscilla’s photographs, Ghost Wahweap, Utah, 2018, currently hangs in the Norton Museum of Art as part of the exhibition, Form Forward: Brett Weston and Photographers of Things Unseen, on view through March 19, 2023. It was donated by her close friend, Burt Minkoff – with whom she is pictured above.
We sat down with Priscilla in advance of her talk at The Coudert Institute on Thursday, March 2nd. Here’s what she told us…
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Rome, Italy, then went to boarding school in France and in Wales when I was a teenager.
What was the inspiration for your career in photography?
I was inspired by The Michelangelo Antonioni cult movie, Blow-Up. It made photography look very cool back in the late sixties.
What is it about trees? How did you transition from Fashion Photography to Nature?
What brought you to Palm Beach?
I bought my house in 2006 so I could have a winter getaway, and then ended up spending more and more time here as my kids started leaving home, especially during Covid, and I finally decided to move here permanently.
How do you describe your unique style?
Who is the most interesting person you’ve ever photographed?
Perhaps Sophia Loren because she taught me so much, about angles, about lighting, and about draping that black stocking tight over the lens in order to create the perfect filter for aging skin. (This was before Photoshop obviously).
Do you plans to travel this summer? Where?
I have rented a house in Southampton for the last two weeks of July to be near the Peter Marino Art Foundation where I am having an exhibition and a book signing. I also plan to be in Italy and Greece in August.
What’s your favorite memory of your uncle Gianni Agnelli?
He adored his grandchildren, Yaki, Lapo and Ginevra Elkann, and it was very moving to watch him with them.
Is there a particular environmental cause you support?
I support the Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation as it is an organization I helped start seven years ago and I support the Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners, a great organization which runs educational programs in the National Monument.
Getting back to the trees…
I have become obsessed with Champion trees. It has to do with the Three Lindens project I am doing with the Peter Marino Art Foundation. A Champion tree is the largest of its kind. There are national Champion trees and state Champion trees. Guess which state has the most Champion trees in the USA? I would have thought California, but instead it’s…drumroll… Florida at 122.