Elio Sorci, like many of the paparazzi, found his professional path by chance rather than design. Indeed it might be rightly posited that it was precisely their lack of formal training, their lack of self-consciousness towards the medium, the absence of all those aesthetic and ethical anxieties that can inhibit spontaneity, that cast them so perfectly in the role of ruthless image-hunters. On the essential-asset side of the equation, of course, was the mix of charm, speed, canniness, intuition and tenacity that their work demanded. The young Elio Sorci’s profile suited him to his profession.
Elio Sorci was a child of the Rome suburbs. Born on January 29 1932, he was awaiting call-up for his military service when he found his first work in the daily press. Inspired by the example of the attention-grabbing photographs of Ivo Meldolesi, whom Sorci described as ‘the forerunner of all these activities’, he was drawn to the medium and was very soon apprenticed in the photographic department of Il Giornale d’Italia to the already well-established Osvaldo Restaldi, another notable chaser of sensational exclusives, such as his July 1950 image of the body of the murdered Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano. Sorci’s fascination was not with the art of photography but with the strategic aspects of the job. He relished the planning and the execution of his targeted image-making. ‘Our activities rotated around what would be published in the newspaper the next day,’ he later explained. ‘What interested me was a journalistic scoop, to get it alone, no matter how much time it took… I considered it my business to get pictures in places where photographers were not allowed… What we did, without knowing it at the time, was begin a new era in photojournalism.’