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Words and interview by ELLA BARDSLEY
It’s hard to believe KATE MOSS wasn’t always a household name. Shooting to fame in the ’90s as CALVIN KLEIN’S waifish muse and the face of grunge, the worldwide supermodel has gone on to become one of the highest earning models of all time. But the fashion industry didn’t always hold her in such high esteem.
When British photographer KATE GARNER shot the model in the mid ’90s for Esquire Magazine, the photos were rejected. “Esquire decided that Kate wasn’t going to ‘make it,” laughs Garner. Moss didn’t have the ‘Glamazonian’ beauty of ’80s top model girl gang: LINDA EVANGELISTA, NAOMI CAMPBELL and CHRISTY TURLINGTON.
“A year later they asked me to photograph her and two other models as the new faces on the block,” the photographer continues. “Kate kindly did that shoot for them as well, and later Esquire bought some of the pics from the SAME shoot to use in an article about Kate’s rapid rise. I think status quo establishments find it very hard to take a chance on new talent and have to have an okay from many sources before going ahead and promoting fresh faces. The Teddy Bear shots, an outtake from this session, have been published endlessly!” Now, Hampstead’s Zebra One Gallery is showcasing the previously unseen image from the pioneering shoot, which documents Moss getting ready for a night out.
LOVE speaks to the photographer on capturing DAVID BOWIE, escaping a religious cult to pursue photography, and how Kate Moss’ hypnotising aura is about more than just her beauty.
Tell us the story behind this new Kate Moss by Kate Garner photo. What stands out the most about the day this image was shot?
1. The shoot was for Esquire . The photos were to accompany an interview with Kate about moving from grunge waif to a contender with models like Linda Evangelista, Naomi, and Christy Turlington. What stands out is Kate arriving at the shoot wearing a little denim mini skirt with her boyfriend’s underpants hanging below the hem of the skirt and her flopping back on the big canopied bed exhausted because she’d been up all night. She still managed to look hip and gorgeous.
2. Why do you think Esquire never published the photograph? Did you try and publish it anywhere else at the time?
2. Esquire decided that Kate wasn’t going to ‘make it’ Hahaha…a year later they asked me to photograph her and two other models as the new faces on the block. Kate kindly did THAT shoot for them as well and later Esquire bought some of the pics from the SAME shoot to use in an article about Kate’s rapid rise.I think status quo establishments find it very hard to take a chance on new talent and have to have an OK from many sources before going ahead and promoting fresh faces.
The Teddy Bear shots, an outtake from this session, have been published endlessly! Why do you think the image is important to publish now?
3. I’ve never published this picture. All my work got stolen about 12 years ago from my storage in LA. A friend of mine had kept some of my negs and prints in his studio in London…Thank You David Parfit! This was one of them. It’s a piece of herstory. A young girl against all odds who rose to the top of a profession whose hierarchy rejected her at first.
In your opinion, why is Kate Moss such an influential model? What’s your relationship with her like?
4. Kate is blessed with beautiful prettiness. The girl next door whose good looks vere off into strangeness to become original. To quote Francis Bacon “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”But more than that I found in Kate a quietness and receptiveness that tunes into the people she is working with and instinctively interprets and works with those people to manifest what were previously just untethered ideas.
What inspires you to take photos?
5. People used to inspire me; the desire to show them how beautiful they were, especially if they didn’t see that beauty in themselves. I remember standing in the darkroom with my friend Myra as she watched her face appear on the paper steeped in chemicals and her gasp of amazement because I had seen her beauty and got in onto the film and now SHE could see it. That memory is dear to me. Now I see amazing humans all the time with even more sharpness and clarity, but I don’t have the desire to capture them on film so much. Painting is now more my speed.
Tell us about the early days of your career. How did you get your start in photography? Did you always want to be a photographer?
6. Born a woman in the ’50s to a low-income family in the north of England, the options presented to me for a way to support myself were nurse, teacher or secretary, all of which terrified me. After being captured by a cult, The Children of God, in London, escaping and then hitchhiking from England to India at the age of 18, I came home to the same options.
I met a girl on the street who was going to photography college, it blew my mind that that was an option. I applied and got in. There were only four girls in the whole college!
It was a purely technical course…no artistry involved! But for the first time in my life, practicality and imagination weren’t mutually exclusive, I had the tools to build a world outside of the roles allocated to women in the 70s. I won the year two exhibition but dropped out before graduating because they wouldn’t let me photograph male nudes for my thesis. I was allowed to do female nudes, not males. So I left and came to London.
You’ve photographed the likes of Dr.Dre, Eazy E, David Bowie and John Galliano. What have been some of your career highlights and why?
7. Eazy E… a recording studio in the middle of the night somewhere in LA…didn’t know where I was. Eazy was quiet, photographing him under a street lamp. Dr. Dre …another recording studio, this time during the day, somewhere in more central LA. Dr. Dre and I wandering down the alleyways between buildings, surrounded by massive bodyguards. I had 5 mins to get a pic.
David Bowie sitting opposite me in a studio in LA, serenading me with one of my Haysi Fantayzee songs…”Shiny Shiny.” We had both worked with Tony Visconti. Tony said that Haysi, Bowie and Marc Bolan were his favourite musicians to work with.
David showed me photographs of the paintings he was working on and asked my opinion. We had to shoot two different sessions for two different magazines that day. It was stressful, but David was gentle. He let me string him up with ropes, wrap him in bandages and stick him in a tube…no problem. I was a fan by the end of the day. He wanted me to photograph Iman. He wanted to come to my crummy LA apartment and do a shoot there. I asked the Face if they were interested in that idea. They said no because Bowie had ‘SOLD OUT’ when he sold his catalogue to investors?!?
I guess they wanted him to stay poor, drug addicted…that was their idea of a “real” rockstar!
John Galliano I found to be gentle, inspiring and warm…whatever happened in Paris…that’s not the man I met.My career highlights have been working together with teams of people to make some ephemeral idea solid. The kindnesses, the neuroses, the tiredness, the laughter. Beautiful, insecure humans, artists who live life on the precipice of pain to be shamans for us, because they have no choice but to be a channel.
Most of all I remember being backstage in 2013 as Saint Iggy Pop was carried into his dressing room because he was in so much agony after a performance that had transported the staid South Bank audience to a place they needed to go. Again, I had 5 mins to photograph him. He was so humble and sweet-hearted; he asked me if I wanted him to put more clothes on…”No…take more off!” I answered. I have 2 photos from that sweet backstage moment. I like the one of him seated, looking gentle and restful. I feel thankful to ALL the artists I’ve photographed. They have given my life meaning, lifted me up when I’m down, and filled me with joy. What a privilege!
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