New York

In those years it was quite common to engage in “Street Photography.” We were inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who walked around Europe with his silent Leica capturing unplanned moments.  During a trip to New York in 1976, I walked around Manhattan with my Nikon, photographing the people who were hanging out in the streets or riding on the subway.

NY subway (c) 1976

NY street (c) 1976

NY street (c) 1976


Modena, Italy

In June 1976 I applied the same technique of street photography to my hometown of Modena, Italy, capturing little girls at a religious procession in front of the romanesque cathedral and old men on their bicycles chatting in the main square. Modena 76-1sModena 76-3s Modena 76-5s

Roma, Italy

In June 1976 during my trip to Italy I traveled to Rome to cover the elections, I also walked around to do some street photography.

Roma 76-4sRoma 76-1s

Self portraits

I was intrigued by the idea of taking self-portraits, I even wrote a technical article for a photo magazine about it.  My goal was to come up with an image to represent myself as a photographer.  Eventually I succeeded, combining my love for playing cards with my love for photography: I represented myself as the Queen of Spades.  Then my friend Paul Ruscha designed the graphics for the back and I had my first business card.

Elisa Leonelli (c) 1976

card front 1976

card 2


In 1976 I photographed the villagers of Montepagano, in the Italian region of Abruzzi. To accompany the photos, I wrote my first article in English for Westways (AAA travel magazine, May 1977), in 1980 the photo essay was also published in Mankind.


















(c) Mankind 1980


In my studio in Hollywood, in 1978-1979, I experimented with lighting, models, hair stylists and make-up artists, to learn about fashion photography. See a published 1980 Summer Fashion layout.


A favorite assignments was to photograph Arnold Schwarzenegger in his apartment, his Santa Monica office and at Gold’s Gym, for the Los Angeles Times in 1979, when he was just becoming known because of the documentary “Pumping Iron.”