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September 08 2011

The month in photography

Our guide to the month's best photo exhibitions and books – featuring Terry Richardson, Corinne Day, Lee Friedlander, Vanessa Winship and Pieter Hugo



September 02 2011

Corinne Day: The Face – review

Photographer who found unadorned beauty – and launched Kate Moss on the fashion world

Corinne Day, who died last August, will be remembered for transforming fashion with her pictures of the young Kate Moss for the Face.

While her famous shot of 16-year-old Moss wrinkling her nose in a feathery headdress was actually the second time the model had been on the cover of the style mag (the first time was two months earlier – improbably, an Italia 90 special), Day's photographs seemed to sum up a new era. The early 90s was a time of hedonism, hope, and change: repressive regimes around Europe were toppled, the Berlin wall came down, and rave culture seemed to offer young clubbers a glimpse of a utopian society.

The photographs in this small exhibition, not featuring that cover shot but mainly culled from two 1991 Face fashion stories, recapture that feeling of optimism: of a coming generation deciding to do things their way. Instead of the imperious busty glamazon you'd find in an 80s fashion shoot, you have Moss.

With lank hair, no make-up and wearing what look at this 20-year distance to be charity shop finds (scuffed boots, tatty jumpers), she's beautiful but fresh and real: recognisably a girl from Croydon. In a series of pictures taken in Borneo, she seems barely older than the local kids. One shot sees her leading a grinning young boy whose face is surrounded by the petals of a giant paper flower, like Barry Mooncult, dancer with early 90s band Flowered Up . In another, she's posed in a tropical location, but wearing a floppy hat and clutching a bottle of beer, more Club 18-30 than Condé Nast Travel.

Day's pictures junk the materialistic trappings of the 80s. Instead of glossy aspiration, she celebrates the ordinary – cracks in the wall, Rizlas on the floor, the grotty carpets immediately recognisable to anyone who's ever lived in rented accommodation. Out go big hair and shoulder pads: in come drainpipe jeans and secondhand shirts (not yet described as "vintage"). A picture of a young man lying topless by a lake as the sun goes down foregrounds the litter, gravel and muddy patches that earlier fashion photographers would have been at pains to remove.

Moss has been so omnipresent over the years that looking at old pictures of her is inevitably a nostalgic experience. A series of 2007 close-ups allows us to compare then and now, although she seems to have escaped with only a few wrinkles in these passport-photo-like shots. (A Juergen Teller shoot in Self Service magazine last year was far more brutal.) The real novelty is seeing close-ups of her talking, since she utters so few words in public.

While Day's aesthetic – of finding beauty in the mundane – soon became commodified by brands such as Calvin Klein, these pictures still have a tangible idealism which is bittersweet in hindsight. Their mood is summed up in the slogan of a brooch Moss is wearing in a couple of pictures. It reads "Heaven is real".

Rating: 4/5


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August 11 2011

Kate Moss and Jamie Hince's wedding in American Vogue, photographed by Mario Testino – in pictures

The news that Kate Moss's wedding pictures would appear in the September 2011 issue of American Vogue has seen fashion fans counting down the days. And now here they are.



December 10 2010

The month in photography

Our guide to the month's best photo exhibitions and books – including works by William Eggleston, Gerda Taro, Bill Brandt, W Eugene Smith and Richard Avedon



August 31 2010

Corinne Day: raw genius

Corinne Day's photographs of a young Kate Moss caused a huge outcry – then became the defining fashion images of the 90s

So familiar, so utterly redolent of their time have they become, that it is hard to recall just how alien, shocking and strange Corinne Day's photos for the June 1993 issue of Vogue seemed at first. Edgier magazines (i-D, the Face, Dazed and Confused) had already documented the aesthetic that was sensationally labelled "heroin chic". But when the mighty Vogue published Day's pictures of a vacant-faced Moss clad in low-slung tan tights, posed next to a radiator which resembled her build, a hurricane of disapproval was unleashed.

Day died last Friday, 27 August, aged 48, from brain cancer. She will be remembered for her close association with Moss at the beginning of the model's career, and in particular for two specific photo stories: the Vogue shoot and, three years before that, a cover story for the Face featuring Moss's puckish, 15-year-old features grinning beneath a feathered headdress. The coverline read: "The 3rd Summer of Love". Inside, the magazine showed Moss in black-and-white: half-naked, larking about on the beach, giggling. Looking at them now, they seem as quaint and antique as Victorian postcards.

But it was that Vogue underwear shoot (the word lingerie seems too rarefied for the vests and pants she was shot in) that defined Day. The immediate reaction was ferocious. Susie Orbach, author of Fat is a Feminist Issue, described the photographs as "just this side of porn". Marcelle D'Argy Smith, then editor of Cosmopolitan, said: "The pictures are hideous and tragic. I believe they can only appeal to the paedophile market." The New York Times succinctly described Moss's look as "very young and very dead". Four years later, there was still fallout. Day's shoot was widely referenced when no less an authority than the president of the United States, Bill Clinton, opined that "fashion photos in the last few years have made heroin addiction seem glamorous and sexy and cool".

Then as now, Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman, who commissioned the shoot, finds it hard to comprehend the extremity of the reaction. "I remember being on holiday at the time," she said yesterday, "and I couldn't understand what the fuss was about. I thought they were lovely pictures, and we certainly weren't trying to do anything sensationalist. I felt that if you looked in the changing rooms in high-street stores, or if you looked in young girls' bedrooms, that's what you saw. Kate looked like the most beautiful version of girls at school.

"It seemed strange to object to this kind of thing rather than the usual kind of photos with all the makeup, the padded bras, all the artifice. But I think it was really about the context. People felt betrayed by Vogue – it was supposed to be a beacon of old-fashioned glamour and this was so downbeat." In 1993, the magazine was hungover from the glitz and glitter of the 1980s. With the Day shoot, they finally nailed their colours to the mast. The shoot reflected the fact that things had changed, to say the least.

With hindsight, the power of Day's pictures is that they seem to echo a moment in British cultural history, one that goes beyond the emergence of grunge as a fashion trend, and might also call to mind the grubbier shores of Britpop, the youthful antics of artists such as Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, and the publication of novels such as Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting.

As artefacts in the history of feminism, I am less certain of their status. Day's own great success was in self-creation: she left school with a single O-level, started out as a bank clerk, then worked for free on the Face before establishing herself as a photographer who made, says Shulman, "ordinariness remarkable" and whose pictures were "better and better the less ornate they were". In 1993, and today, there were few women photographers working on Vogue, and when I worked there briefly from 1995-6, the prevailing if unedifying dynamic was of female editors soothing the vast egos of male snappers.

At the time, Moss was called a "superwaif" and waifish is how she appears in the Vogue pictures: a woman-child in the long tradition of Dickens's Dora Spenlow and Berg's Lulu. The Spice Girls were launched in 1994, and the waif was replaced in popular culture by a noisier, and longer-lasting, model of young womanhood – the spuriously liberated ladette. It is hard to discern which was worse: the cure or the disease.


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April 03 2010

November 08 2009

My Space: Marc Quinn

The artist opens the doors to the library of his London studio – a room for reading and lunch with his boys

I've worked in and around Old Street for 10 years. It's a fun area because it's quite anonymous, but there are always people around. This studio is two storeys of a new build with flats above. It's a bit like a tardis. You enter through a very small door into a big open space, very minimal, with a few artworks around. I like the work of Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume, and southeast Asian art. I don't just want to look at my own stuff all the time.

This is the library, where I can sit and read – an area of contemplation, I suppose. If you look closely you'll see an alphabetical list of art books which I'll look at from time to time, but I get most of my inspiration from magazines or the internet.

At the moment I'm working on a series of sculptures of people who've transformed themselves through plastic surgery – it will be shown next year. A lot of the people I found on the internet, such as Buck Angel who is a transsexual porn star. It's quite magical to actually meet someone you've previously only seen on your computer. The final sculptures will be in bronze, silicon and marble, and up to 3m tall.

As an artist you have to have a creative relationship with your gallery, so Jay Jopling from White Cube sometimes drops in. It's partly a social call. He'll see what's happening and then we'll sit down here and decide what we're going to do with a show. My two sons, Sky, 4, and Lucas, 8, often come around for lunch: that's fun (we live in Primrose Hill, which is only 30 minutes away). It's only dangerous for children in that there are unsuitable images on the wall that I have to remember to take down.★

The Art Fund presents an Artist in Conversation talk with Marc Quinn on 12 November at 7pm at the National Portrait Gallery (www.artfund.org/whatson)


Around the room

Marble chairs and table I made a line of marble furniture called Iceberg with the Carpenter's Workshop Gallery in Mayfair at the end of last year. I made this table and chairs for myself to put in the studio. It's Italian white marble, exactly the same material as I would use for the sculptures.

Toast My preferred snack is Poilâne toast with olive oil, salt and pepper. Poilâne is posh French sourdough bread they sell around the corner in Waitrose for about £2 a loaf, but it's worth it because it's got a bit of body and bite to it – it's not just fluffy bread. I'll have a few slices at lunch and then a few more in the afternoon.

Implant This was a gift from one of the sitters for this new series. They sent me a letter saying they'd really enjoyed it and wondered if I'd like a discarded implant as a little present, which was very touching. I imagine it was removed to put a new one in, so it has already been sitting inside a body for a fair few years.

Framed picture This is a satellite photo of Hiroshima taken about one millisecond after the bomb was dropped. It's like the beginning of the 20th century, in a way. There's this rather amazing abstract sculpture made of smoke, the beginning of the mushroom cloud, and then you see the city in front of it just sort of sitting there, waiting. I bought it from an art dealer in Germany.

Sculpture Jason Schulman became an artist at the age of 40, so he's in this interesting situation of being a youngish artist whose work is quite mature. I can't remember the price I paid for this. It's a handmade Solpadine packet in magnetic suspension which appears to levitate. He just did a show at the Moscow Biennale.

Flower sculpture This is one of mine. It's like a transgenic plant; real flowers cast into bronze then reassembled by me to make an impossible plant. I developed a process to cast the actual flower. It was deemed impossible before I got it to work.

Baby heads I made these two little sculptures of my sons' heads when they were born, four years apart. I did a little clay portrait in the hospital and then made both of them in their own placenta as well (a bit like Self, the frozen cast of my head made with nine pints of my own blood). Those ones are now in the Goss-Michael Foundation in Dallas and a private collection in New York.

Kate Moss Polaroid I took this the first day she came in to start modelling for the series in bronze I did a few years ago. It's a lovely black and white picture of her. She is very easy to work with and understands that there is a difference between herself and her image, which essentially what the work was about.

Silk fabrics I go to the south of India every Christmas for a holiday and I tend to bring back lots of silks and fabrics for covering sculptures. I've been going for about five years now.

William Blake head This is a plaster cast of the life cast of Blake that's in the National Portrait Gallery (one of the inspirations for my frozen head). It's rather amazing because it's not a death mask, it's a life cast, so it's about energy and life rather than the record of an empty vessel. I think that was quite unusual in his day. At one point they were selling copies, so I bought it.


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