Gianni Giansanti, a photojournalist who was best known for documenting the public and private life of Pope John Paul II, died on March 18 at age 52. The cause was bone cancer.
In fact, as the New York Times mentions in its obit, Giansanti was considered John Paul’s “unofficial” photographer. He was granted access to the Vatican that no other outside photographer could get. His images were distributed to magazines and newspapers around the world by the Sygma photo agency.
Sygma’s former president, Eliane Laffont, met Giansanti in 1978, when he was a young freelancer. He had made exclusive photos of the body of Aldo Moro, the former Italian prime minister who was kidnappedand assasinated by the Red Brigade. “His pictures of Moro, dead in a car, brought him instant fame,” says Laffont. “But he didn’t want to be a ‘news’ photographer. He loved taking his time, organizing his stories, building relationships. Gianni was very good at building relationships.”
Giansanti put that gift to good use in his 27 years of photographing John Paul II. Often, as in the picture above, he used available light, to capture John Paul in quiet, contemplative
“Gianni was one of the best photographers I worked with at Sygma, and we all remember his superb photographs,” says Laffont. “But most important, he was also the nicest, most beautiful, honest, and generous man, and for that he will be greatly missed by everybody he worked with and photographed.”-David Schonauer