Saturday, 18 July 2009

Corinne Day Diary

She has been described as the most important photographer of our generation; love her or loathe her there is no way you can ignore Corinne Day. She is one of the most successful women photographers in the UK and is probably the closest thing we have to the iconic Annie Leboivitz who I blogged about here. She came to light in 1991 when she took those immortal images of Kate Moss, those pictures not only made the cover i-D magazine and were featured in The Face but they made a star out of Ms Moss. Few would argue that Corinne has changed the perception of fashion photography. Corinne feels that her contribution to fashion photography is changing the picture from being about the photographer to being about the subject. Yesterday I watched a documentary that was aired on BBC 4 in 2004 which took an intimate look into the world of Corinne by following her during a year of her life. At the launch of her Diary Exhibition at the Photographer's Gallery in 2000 Corinne's work is unveiled to a packed house. This exhibition represents 10 years of her life where she kept pivotal images of her friends, family, experiences and places she has been to. The work is striking but creates very strong reactions from the visitors at the launch which range from disgusting, sympathetic, raw and sad.

Corinne had a very happy and idyllic childhood growing up with her grandparents and brother. Her parents had spilt up when she was very young and her mother had taken her and her brother to live with her grandparents knowing that they would be cared for. Unfortunately school was not such a breeze due to her learning difficulties and she left at the soonest opportunity. She fell into modelling for catalogues and beauty shoots, travelled and lived in California for two years. The turning point of her life was meeting Mark Szaszy, an up and coming director in Tokyo, they quickly became a couple. Mark taught her how to use a camera and that was that; pretty soon she had found two great loves - Mark and photography. The couple moved to Italy where they were surrounded by starter models so she began taking images of them in their flats, surrounded by copies of Vogue magazines, smoking a spiff and swapping stories about their latest job. In 1992 back in London she found her next subject in the shape of an androgynous looking Rosemary Ferguson. She played up Rose's boyish features by putting her in masculine clothes like suits and tomboy tshirts. These pictures were featured in American Vogue in article which talked about how fashionable it looked to be on drugs. This was when the term 'heroin chic' came to the forefront and in an unlikely from of Bill Clinton. British Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman define the term heroin chic below.

"Heroin chic was s a very clever and canny speech writer's phase for Bill Clinton to describe the glamorisation of the drug culture in the media."

Addressing a group of city mayors about the US drugs policy Clinton condemned heroin chic for glamorising drug use. The Guardian jumped on the bandwagon and used her pictures with asking for her permission and pretty soon the whole media had something to say about heroin chic. However, Corinne had gained a fan in the form of Alexandra Shulman who really took to Corinne's idea of femininity and felt that she represented a change in the mood of fashion at that time. She commissioned Corinne to shoot Kate Moss for Brit Vogue and the end result were pictures of an 18 year old Kate dressed scantily while posing on a bed and sofa. Those images caused an outrage in the media accusing Vogue of exploiting vulnerable young women and promoting child porn. After all this drama, Corinne decided it was time to take a step back from the fashion industry and she began following indie band, Pusherman. She followed them on tour and took images of their professional and personal lives and their lifestyle became her lifestyle drugs and all. Shortly afterwards she was diagnosed with a brain tumour which she was hospitalised for and this almost fatal incident helped her to kick her drug habit.

These days Corinne still takes photographs for fashion magazines such as British, Italian and Japanese Vogue. As well as the Photographer's Gallery her work has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate Modern, Saatchi Gallery, The Science Museum, The Design Museum, Gimpel Fils London and included in The Andy Warhol exhibition at the Whitney Museum NY. Interestingly enough in 2007 she was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to take a selection of images of Kate Moss as part of an exhibition called Face of Fashion. The photo that stood out to me where the head shots of Kate using a variety of facial expressions; anger, happiness, surprised, annoyed, sad these images were featured in all the newspapers and really showed Corinne for the genius she is.

You can check out Corinne Day's work at her website.

All images taken by Corinne Day.

5 cool comments:

Nataliexxx said...

Great read <3

Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

hey this is really interesting, im quite a fan of corinne day. where can i find the documentary you mentioned?

Ondo Lady said...

Well I got a copy from my local University. Are you based in the UK?

Anonymous said...

yes i am :-) do you know if it 's on the internet any where?

resturchemistry said...

Hi, I'm am sooo looking for the film as well, unfortunately I'm based in Poland, will write an article on Corinne. Could you help me with this please?