The V&A Museum held a press launch yesterday for their exhibition Horst: Photographer of Style, which opens on 6 September. I went along to cover the story for Demotix.
The lure for photographers was a photo call with 83-year old model Carmen Dell'Orefice, a New Yorker who started modelling at the age of 14. In an interview on the Today programme, she said she used to roller-skate to her early shoots. She worked for Horst regularly over the following decades during the period when he was regularly supplying Vogue covers (94 between 1935 and 1963). The Vogue covers are all in the exhibition, as well as some huge C-type prints taken from his original transparencies in the Conde Nast archives.
Carmen came out and posed next to a photograph of her which Horst took in 1947, in which she's wearing a white lace dress with a green sash, by Hettie Carnegie. Frankly, I think she looks better now, in a sleek trouser suit and huge gold pendant. She struck lots of poses, showed her fantastic animated features at their best and threw her head back in silent fake laughs. She had a dry wit and lots of charm, wrapping up the session after 15 minutes by saying, 'If you haven't got something by now, you're not professionals.'
So, yesterday I had an email from Demotix, the online news agency to which I have submitted a few stories. It was an automated message that a story of mine is "becoming popular" because the page had been viewed 1000 times. Now, ruling out that about 50 of those are me viewing it to see how many people have viewed it, etc, etc, that's still quite satisfying.
Anyway, the story in question was of a demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London, as part of the One Billion Rising day of action for women's rights around the world on Valentine's Day this February. In fact, there were so many eminent speakers at the demo that I split the story in two: the on-stage speakers are in another story, which has only racked up 187 views.
Quite a difference!
All the off-stage shots are in the more popular story, such as a candid portrait of the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper with a very jaunty Union Jack brolly. And also, perhaps most significantly, of the singer Skin, formerly of Skunk Anansie, with her American wife, Christiana Wyly.
Now, living in London you quite often see famous people going about their business. Professor Brian Cox outside a corner shop. Gabriel Byrne at a cafe table. But I have never ever ever whipped out my camera or phone and taken a shot. Never. I just don't want to intrude into someone's life. So why did I do it this time? I had turned away from the stage to do a wide shot of the crowd cheering the speakers and spotted Skin there. She was due on stage about half an hour later and was part of the event. Her sound check had blasted her amazing voice across Trafalgar Square and stopped many passers-by who had no idea what the event was. So it seemed that Skin standing in the crowd listening to all the activist speakers -- some famous, some not -- was a public act of support. She was not hiding away being a prima donna; she was part of the demo and she was cheering with the rest of the crowd.
I hesitated and caught Skin's eye. She had spotted me and though she didn't quite nod at me, she clearly knew I was going to take a photo and was obviously comfortable with it. After I'd taken a couple of shots, Christiana Wyly noticed me too and purposefully snuggled up closer, looking very proud of her partner.
I'm impressed with them both. Rich and famous, they stood in the rain on a cold London winter's day and listen to serious speeches about women's rights. I will never be a paparazzo but clearly, just having dipped my toe into celebrity waters, the interest is there and the page views reflect it in stark numbers. As of this minute, its celebrities 1016: feminists 187. Its a good thing some celebrities are feminists too!
Anna Watson: photographer, parent, juggler