Every great man has his own hagiographer –the Caesars had Suetorius; Johnson, his Boswell. However, Corinne Day — who died last week prematurely at the page of 48 — was much more than a hagiographer for Kate Moss. Their initial relationship was that of mutual dependence, not different from that between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. One just couldn’t exist without the other.
With the help of Phil Bicker, the art director of the Face magazine, Corinne Day reinvented the fashion photography to be less glamorous, a gritty reduction that befitted the grunge era. It was Day who spotted 14-year old Kate Moss in the files of a London model agency in the spring of 1990, and showed her photo to Bicker. By June 1990, Moss was featured in the Face, then the most influential style magazine in Europe. Inside were the photos of Kate on Camber Sands in and out of hippy clothes. On the cover was Moss, sans make-up, who was full of excitement and awkwardness that was shared by many who grew up in that giddy yet tumultuous decade.
A former model herself, Ms. Day insisted on plain, real, un-airbrushed beauty. For the next three years, Day and her young muse would live together in Day’s Soho flat, with the photographer endlessly documenting Moss’s every moment. The duo eventually had their ‘artistic differences’; after Day took Moss’ first Vogue cover in 1993, they parted ways — although Day would return to take the photo of Moss for her induction into the National Portrait Gallery. Moss would go on to be “the anti-supermodel” notorious for being so relaxed on camera and flouting the norms; Day would be accused of glamorizing anorexia, drug use and “heroin chic” — by many, including then-President Clinton. She died, defending her artistic beliefs, but never transcending the society’s views that she was merely another fashion photographer.
N.B. (Before everyone starts throwing hissy fits and flame wars) The photo inside the Face included one topless photo and another which strongly suggests that she was naked. Moss was sixteen at the time, but the images were considered legal — only in 2003, the Sexual Offences Act was enacted to raise the age limit to eighteen.