Leopard printed coat, black make-up, cigarette in one hand and a bottle of alcohol in the other. The typical Kate Moss picture of recent years has absolutely nothing to do with some of the first pictures of her, taken by Corinne Day for the magazine The Face: a very young Kate, photographed for the fashion story Borneo, published in the August ‘91 issue of the magazine, without make-up, white unbuttoned shirt, topless, carrying coconuts or walking down the road in flip-flops, smiling, local children around her.
The Face was a British music, fashion and culture, monthly magazine that became popular during the mid-1990s. It broke boundaries while expressing the underground movements of the 90s, as editor Sheryl Garrett said: “acid house, ecstasy and the rapid rise of rave culture were the magazine’s inspirations. It felt like a time for smiling rather than pouting, for bright colours and openness, and also for something more natural and real.” Although often overlooked, what should be obvious is the joyfulness of Day’s pictures, in this exhibition.
“Modern life is rubbish”. We should therefore live it with a smile…
Those smiling images are proof that she wanted to challenge preconceived notions of beauty dominant in the fashion industry: they never seem staged or posed, but simply real. The best example is the photograph of Kate Moss in a phone booth, a slightly blurry picture that could have been picked from a random family’s photo album. More than fifteen years later Day’s work hadn’t changed in this respect. When she was commissioned to photograph Kate Moss by the National Portrait Gallery, the result consisted of nine close-up portraits that are far from the usual fashion pictures: untouched by Photoshop, we can see wrinkles around her eyes, her hair is not brushed, in some she is speaking and in others looking away.
Maybe the message is exactly what we can read on a sign behind Kate Moss in one of the pictures: “Modern life is rubbish”. We should therefore live it with a smile, just as it comes, not caring about the social boundaries and rules. After all, what Day portrayed is simply youthful and powerful enthusiasm (her 1992 images of the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a clear example of this).
In the visitors’ book some of the comments were simply “beautiful pictures”, others used the word “inspiring”. Because that is precisely what they are: they could be only “beautiful pictures” – and they are – but if you look for it, you will discover there is a message behind them. And that message is exactly what the most recent pictures of Kate Moss have in common with the oldest.
The exhibition continues until 1 October.
Image courtesy of Corinne Day