In this first post of an occasional series the Founder and Curator of the United Nations of Photography Grant Scott recounts his experiences working with some of the great photographers of the last century. Here he takes us behind the scenes of a shoot with photographer Corrine Day in London.
I worked with Corinne Day only once and by the time I did her photographic vision had been formed. She had her aesthetic in place and people were asking to be photographed by her. They wanted to be part of her world for just long enough to say they had been, even if that was just for the length of one shoot. We shot the actress Patsy Kensit together. Patsy was just coming to the end of her relationship with the Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr, just before she met Liam Gallagher.
We started the shoot in a large, attic studio on Scrutton Street, just off Old Street, before Hoxton and Shoreditch had become what they are today. Corinne had two male assistants who had erected a vast white stretched scrim on a frame. This they had surrounded with banks of lights. The statement was clearly one of being a professional photographer. There was no stylist, just a rail of clothes to consider working with. The atmosphere and approach was low key.
Corinne began working with a Polaroid camera and Patsy stood in front of the scrim. Little happened and the image above is from the beginning of the shoot. It’s simplicity and lack of pretence clear to see. Corinne had bought some hand made bracelets with her which she gave to Patsy, encouraging her to bite and chew them but the studio wasn’t giving Corinne anything to work with so a decision was made to relocate to a different location. More of a Corinne kind of location.
The old hotel that still sits on top of Paddington station had certainly seen better days by the time we arrived in the Nineties and we had no trouble getting a room to shoot in. Cheap wood panel walls, broken furniture, stained carpets, thin blankets and nylon sheets on the beds and deserted, cavernous hotel corridors all delighted Corinne and her mood noticeably lifted. It was grim but Corinne was alive and Patsy was happy to go along for the ride.
The clothes moved from a simple white shirt to a sexed up evening dress falling off one shoulder and spike heels carried not worn. The premise was simple, it was the early hours of the morning, Patsy was coming back to her hotel room from a traumatic, dramatic night out. Corinne wanted her to storm down the corridors, kicking the walls furious with the man that had wronged her. “It’s two in the morning” she told Patsy, “He’s left you; show me how you feel”.
Again and again Patsy stormed down that corridor until Corinne was content that she had the pictures she wanted. That one set up was the shoot. The pictures taken in the morning were dismissed. Patsy and I laid across a narrow, stained single bed back in the room, leaning on our elbows, watching Top of the Pop’s on a static filled screen as Corinne and her assistants packed up the minimal kit they had bought with them. I can’t remember if Oasis were on that night!
“It’s all about freedom” she once said “and being proud of the holes in your jumper” two comments that sum up perfectly my experience of working with her on that day when I was expected to shoot a magazine cover and a series of portraits but ended up with neither.
© Grant Scott 2014
You can read more of Grant Scott’s insights into the world of professional photography in his new book Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained published by Focal Press and available form www.amazon.com