In a few hours and a few days, Michel Chicheportiche (News Pictures) sold Massimo Sestini’s story dozens of times. A record!
Friday, January 13, 9:43pm, the “Costa Concordia” just smashed into a reef off the coast of Giglio, Italy.
“It was nearly 11pm when I heard the news” comments Massimo Sestini, senior reporter and owner of the eponymous agency. “I immediately sent three photographers on location. The agency is in Florence, a three-hour drive from the San Stefano port. From there, we could sail to the island. I am very pleased to have immediately understood the importance of this news flash, the competition didn’t arrive until lunchtime Saturday” he adds, laughing.
“While my colleagues were driving towards the shipwreck, I was already looking for a helicopter. I had already covered several stories from helicopters and had solid contacts. But this Saturday morning, the diverse police divisions, the firemen, the coast guard, all told me it would be impossible to travel with them. So I tried to rent a private helicopter, but it was a no-fly zone… Hopeless, I called the Italian Marines with whom I had already worked. They have a base in Luni, a half-hour drive from Florence. They said OK, we will ask for authorizations. I got there Saturday at noon and waited six hours when suddenly, I saw a big helicopter take off… I swore and called my contact who reassured me: no problem, another helicopter will be flying over the area…Indeed, it took off at 6pm but at night, couldn’t take civilian passengers!”
“On Sunday, I left for the Island, a bit disheartened. Suddenly, the Marines called, apologized, thanked me for my patience – and gave me authorization to accompany the divers in the wreck! I was thrilled. I got my material together, my lamps and reflectors, thinking: the only interesting picture is of the inside of the boat! Indeed, I had the chance to enter the boat through a gap in the hull carved out by the Marine divers. The pictures were sold around the world.”
“But I wasn’t totally satisfied, I still wanted pictures from the helicopter. I waited three days before I finally convinced a pilot flying a blimp to take me over the boat. I wanted to take a picture where the boat looks like it’s floating, but instead of the sky, we see water!”
If we can imagine that Massimo Sestini took his first pictures at 16, and was born in 1963, it is easy to imagine his photographic career that began with the local papers and continued into the best Italian agencies. “Massimo Sestini was a Gamma correspondent in Italy and successfully covered many stories both in Italy and abroad” remembers Floris de Bonneville, a legendary Gamma senior editor. From sports to paparazzi to charm and “hot news”, Massimo Sestini knows the ins and outs of the field.
It is no coincidence then that his only agent abroad is Michel Chicheportiche, owner of the News Pictures agency he created in Paris after his departure from Sipa press where he was, for years, among the “golden age” of salesmen including Alain Dupuis, François Caron, Tony Rubichon and Claude Duverger.
“We had great sales with this story” commented Sestini, adding “don’t forget to say that we have 12 photographers and 30 correspondents in Europe. Ciao Michel!”