Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.
The American photographer’s new exhibition in Paris reveals his poetic images of fashion, jazz and ballet
17 Октября 2016
It was a boiling hot, crazy-busy day in New York when I met Arthur Elgort in his downtown studio to talk about his exhibition at Colette, the style-setting concept store in Paris. But the photographer was reluctant to discuss the pictures pinned to his walls, except to point to Grace Coddington’s flame of red hair — “She’s a wonderful girl — she hasn’t changed at all” — or to Naomi Campbell, who was apparently “a little bit crazy” but alright with Azzedine Alaia because “she was a little afraid of him”.
Instead of fashion, Arthur wanted to talk about ballet, and his love of the dance that had inspired his revolutionary fashion photography of women in movement. He wanted to show me the never-published images of ballet dancers that he had taken during his years behind the camera. There was Darcey Bussell, the British prima ballerina (now retired after two decades at the top); the powerful New York City Ballet dancers; Russian stars from Valentina Kozlova to Mikhail Baryshnikov; and young, unknown Russian girls as they came out of their first lessons at the barre.
“No-one was there; there wasn’t a make-up artist - they did their own make-up. They didn’t need anything - only to dance,” Arthur remembered, pleased that world-renowned German publisher Steidl is publishing a book on his ballet images next year.
“That’s Linda (Evangelista) with the beret, when she just began,” he said of the statuesque figure. “She was a good model — funny — and I liked her because she only liked small rooms, so when we went on a trip, she picked the lousy room and I got the better one!”
“That’s Jerry Hall — she told me to come take her picture, no make-up, no hair-do, she did everything herself,” the photographer reminisced of the American model who was Mick Jagger’s partner at the time. “But she didn’t have such good legs. She had to position them to make them look good.”
I looked at the pictures of so many models at the start of their careers some 25 years ago and then in their prime, including future First Lady of France, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, and Christy Turlington. That connection is ongoing, since on a recent trip to Africa the Elgort family met up with a guide who had helped Arthur and Christy on one of their first shoots together in the Nineties.
Another picture was of Ansel Elgort, the film actor son of Arthur and his wife Grethe Barrett Holby. “He’s kind of famous now,” said the father-of-three cheerfully, “so we don’t have to pay for him anymore, which is nice.” I then remembered that one of Arthur’s books was called Camera Ready: How to Shoot Your Kids (1997).
By the time we were in Paris, celebrating the Colette exhibition with dinner in the kitchen of Azzedine Alaïa, Arthur was speaking proudly about his photographer daughter Sophie, who, along with Grethe, was taking appropriate images of the gathering for Instagram.
Sarah Andelman — who co-founded Colette with her mother 19 years ago — has brought together the different strands of the Arthur Elgort oeuvre and put the photographs on display and on sale. Ballet and jazz are two of the themes, along with fashion photography of supermodels from the Nineties such as Christy and Linda, Helena Christensen, Stephanie Seymour and other famous faces of the period. If you want to take one home, all the images are for sale, unframed, numbered and signed in different sizes. No surprises for guessing that Kate Moss and the elephant are set at the highest price (from 5,500 to 25,000 euros).
| “Arthur Elgort: Fashion, Jazz, Ballet” runs until the 5th of November at Colette, 213 rue Saint-Honoré, Paris|
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