drug abuse

Hot under the collar


City Hall in Paris has managed to create a bit of a commotion. It’s gone and done something that just isn’t very French. (The Brit in me wants to say ‘just isn’t cricket’, but that wouldn’t really be cricket.) It has censored an exhibition. Yep, Paris, that bastion of artistic liberalism, has been told that Larry Clark’s retrospective—Kiss the Past Hello—at the Musée d’Art Moderne is unsuitable for under-18s.

Now, Clark has always cut close to the bone. (He was the director of the 1995 film Kids, let us not forget.) His photographs are gritty, explicit, and provocative. I’d even describe some of them as stomach-churning. But they’re mostly images of under-18s. I can’t claim that these photographs are especially representative of my teenage years, nor those of my friends (I definitely wasn’t pregnant and addicted to heroin at 16), but they do portray the lives of some teenagers. So part from their intrinsic brutality, are they actually that shocking for under-18s?

Untitled, 1971. (Courtesy of Larry Clark, Luhring Augustine, New York and Simon Lee Gallery, London )

One of my friends pointed out that if you want shocking or potentially exploitative, you only have to flick through a newspaper or turn on the evening news. It isn’t as if young people are cocooned from obscenity, drug abuse, violence, or sex and that this exhibition is exposing them to some previously unknown of unvisited horror. This is, or was, someone’s—many people’s, in fact—reality.

As my Ma, who is some sort of bastion of social liberalism herself, put it: ‘When you were 15 I’d rather that you were hanging around a gallery than doing things with boys in the backs of cars. Besides, the pictures hardly glamourise taking drugs or having sex.’ Oh no, these pictures hardly inspire you to shoot up in a dingy council flat in a dodgy area of Brixton. They probably do the exact opposite, in fact.

Speaking of achieving the exact opposite, there’s nothing more attractive than forbidden fruit, is there? How many under-18s would’ve attended the exhibition if it weren’t age-restricted and how many are now looking up Larry Clark on that there intergoogle-fandango, especially after Liberation emblazoned its front page with a slightly raunchy image from the collection on Thursday? In 1960, the publishers Penguin were taken to court on ground of obscenity for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Which book shot to the top of the best sellers’ list? Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Kiss the Past Hello runs from from 8 October 2010 until 2 January 2011, at the Musée d’Art Moderne, 11 avenue du Président Wilson, 75116, Paris.

Corinne Day: obituary

Corinne Day obit

If the 80s could be summed up by sequins, shoulder-pads, and stilettos, then the 90s was about something utterly contrary to that. Drawn, gaunt, and almost grubby it came to be known as heroin chic; and the fashion photographer responsible for this transition was Corinne Day.

Day was brought up by her grandmother and was a self-taught photographer. It was something that she came to after one job had already led to another career. She started out as a courier, flying packages across the world, but began modelling after it was suggested to her by a photographer who was seated next to her on a plane. When modelling, she met Mark Szaszy, the film maker who would become her life partner and would first hand her a camera.

There are two shoots in particular for which Day will be remembered, both featuring Kate Moss. The first was a 16 year old Moss frolicking half-naked on Camber Sands, dressed in clothes bought on Portobello Market—most notably a feathered head-dress—that featured in July 1990 issue of The Face. The second was Underexposed, shot for British Vogue in 1993. Yes, that was the series of photos that were variously described as ‘just this side of porn’, ‘hideous and tragic’, and ‘very young and very dead’. If photography is about provoking a reaction, she most certainly managed it.

But there was more to Day than these photos. She worked for British, Italian, and Japanese Vogue. She documented the lives of her friends, often in the direst and bleakest of situations: living in squats, ravaged by drug abuse, and bloodied by violence. She shot the cover of Moby’s album Play, and she was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and at the Science and Design Museums. Day’s photographs were intimate depictions of people.

This intrusive portrayal of people included herself. In 1996, Day collapsed, was rushed to hospital, and subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumour. This sequence of events, and the treatment of the tumour were all documented and published as Diary in 2001.

The tumour, however, returned. Despite extensive treatment, much of it paid for by funds raised by the Save the Day campaign organised by her friends to sell limited edition photograph prints, Day died at home, on Friday 27 August 2010.

Whether you find Day’s pictures shockingly arresting or naturally attractive, her influence on fashion photography is undeniable.

Corinne Day, photographer, 19 February 1965 — 27 August 2010.