The Shy Vogue Cover Girl & My “Exotic” US Disappointment

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I got a call from the secretary of the legendary British Vogue editor Beatrice Miller ” Can you come in and have tea with Ms Miller” she said. I knew to appear promptly when summoned and immediately made my way to her office from the studio at the top of Vogue House. I knocked on Ms Millers  office door, which was adorned with a YES or NO sign dangling by a string, which set the minimal and clipped tone of her approach to visitors.

I strolled into the room and sat down opposite Ms Miller waiting to hear why she wanted to see me. ” Clive” she said,  holding  up the latest Vogue, showing me the above photograph of Maudie James; “This”  Ms Miller continued in a voice that exuded both admiration and pride “is the most beautiful photograph I have seen in Vogue for a long time. I am sending you to see Alexander Liberman  (the Art Director of American Vogue) with this picture,  so you can work for Vogue USA.”  I was then duly dispatched to the offices of American Vogue, armed with a  letter from Beatrice, a print  and a copy of the current issue of British Vogue.

I arrived at the Vogue offices in New York and was silently  shown into Mr Libermans huge office over looking the city with its spectacular sky line.  Mr Liberman had his back to me and was staring thoughtfully out of the window. “Hello Mr Arrowsmith” he said very deliberately “I have been looking  at your work, this photograph, it is very beautiful, but your work is far to exotic for American Vogue.  Maybe we can talk in a year or so.  Nice of you to come, do please give my regards to Ms Miller.”
Stunned at being damned with faint praise, I respectfully  thanked him for his time and left, feeling totally deflated and quite embarrassed having travelled all that way to be so bluntly dismissed as ‘exotic’. I was staying at  The Algonquin Hotel  and I found solace in a few NYC Martinis,  before taking what felt like a humiliating flight home. On my return I told Beatrice the whole story, feeling as if I had let her down.  She calmly lit a cigarette and said gently through the smoke, “I don’t understand this at all, your work is great.  Don’t be upset.  Lets do  another beautiful feature.” And that was that, although Ms Miller did send me to the US again to shoot the East Coast  US Issue of British Vogue, while Norman Parkinson shot the West Coast (it was one of his last shoots). I did feel that was something of a message to Mr Liberman and illustrated Ms Millers defiant confidence in me.
I also shot other features and some covers with Maudie, many styled by Grace Coddington for Vogue.  She was the quietest cover girl I have ever encountered throughout my career,  she never really said much at all.  She was so sweet, and very shy, but just came alive on film and seemed so serene. She has a way of looking into the camera, that was very enchanting. Below are some of the other images I shot of the shy and oh so  sweet Maudie James.
Maudi-James-Elphy-Cover-Vogue-March-1970
Maudi James – Elphy Cover of Vogue March 1970
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Maudie James – peaceful profile from the March 1970 cover shoot.
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Maudie James looking angelic holding some corn.
John-Freeda-&-Maudi-James-Arrowsmith.©
A behind the scenes snap of Maudie James with hairstylist extraordinaire John Frieda who had run into shot with a coat to keep Maudie warm. John and I worked together on so many shoots, we became dear friends and I’m really proud of the work we did together. Good times.
  • Clive Arrowsmith is shooting stunning images, staging exhibitions and is as passionate about photography as he was when he first pressed the shutter at The Paris Collections. He is available for global media opportunities related to his work and photography generally. Bespoke prints from Clive’s archive are also available by special request, for any enquiries  (email Eugenie here). Clive’s book Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits is available here and Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here

 

2 Comments

  1. It is very telling that Mr Liberman’s pet magazine was SELF, where I was picture editor (before working with you on Night & Day). Shortly before I left he said the photography had become too sophisticated 😂

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