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.
Today, the above image of David Bowie which graced his album Aladdin Sane might have been produced with Photoshop. Back in the 60s, everything was a bit more manual.
It was taken by Brian Duffy who along with David Bailey and Terence Donovan, belonged to the London’s West End set, a heady mix of actors, pop stars and criminals who altogether created many iconic images, crafts and events of the 1960s.
Bowie was interested in the Elvis ring which had the letters TCB [taking care of business] as well as a lightning flash. Duffy himself drew on his face the design, using a lipstick to fill in the red. When it was decided that Bowie would have a flash on his face, Duffy drew inspiration from the mundane objects in his studio and, along with make-up artist Pierre La Roche, copied the red and blue flash off a National Panasonic rice cooker lying nearby.
Duffy hadn’t always wanted to be a photographer. In the beginning he had wanted to be a painter and had then ended up working in fashion before a chance glance at a contact sheet persuaded him to change direction. However, in 1979 Duffy decided he no longer wanted to be a photographer; he decided to set fire to his life’s work–the negatives didn’t totally burn, but the bulk of his work was lost.
A new Duffy exhibition opens at the Chris Beetles galley in London on 15 October.
Note: In May 2003, Vogue magazine paid tribute to Bowie by dressing up Kate Moss in some of his original costumes. A nod to the above Duffy photo graced its cover, which Vogue’s editor Alexandra Shulman said was his favourite cover of all time.
Originally from the unglamorous south London suburb of Croydon, teenager Moss was discovered in 1988 at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport. Two years later, topless pictures of the 14-year-old were splashed across billboards amid condemnation of Moss’ waifish appearance, blank stare and emaciated figure. It was the media that fueled Moss’ rise with constant shots of the wide-eyed, 5-foot-6 beauty – and the paparazzi were just as quick to help her fall.
The September 2005 pictures of Moss allegedly snorting cocaine in a London studio with lover Pete Doherty have turned the 31-year-old fashion icon into a pariah, with fashion companies canceling her contracts. First dropping came from the Swedish fashion retailer H&M, followed by Chanel and Burberry. The images were captured during a Daily Mirror undercover investigation which revealed that Moss, who repeatedly denied taking Class As substances such as cocaine, was a seasoned user. She prepared up to 20 lines of coke on the back of a plastic CD cover in just 40 minutes. Moss issued an apology, but stopped short of admitting drug use. Her dramatic fall has forced a re-think on fashion’s role models, and has raised questions about how an industry notorious for its drug-fueled party life can cultivate Moss’ bad-girl image, then turn on her once that image matches reality.
However, she rebounded quickly: Moss continued to appear in major ad campaigns for Dior, and was on the cover of the November 2005 W and also appeared inside in a multi-page fashion shoot. She was also defended by high-profile friends and supporters, including designer Alexander McQueen. who wore a t-shirt saying “We love you Kate” during his walk-out after a fashion show.