When I first entered the world of fashion and beauty, I worked with up and coming make up artists. Every one was competent but I really longed for something more theatrical and exciting, like the Eastern paintings of Gods and Goddesses. I had been obsessed since childhood with science fiction and fantasy. The fantasy of Barbarella and Sci-fi vision of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was very influential. Particularly as as I was hired fresh out of Kingston College of Art by Town Magazine to go onto Kubrick’s film set , and create some drawings for their publication. Looking back this was a great privilege I will share more about that later but in the meantime here is one of the images.
Vogue asked me to do the Paris Collections in 1970 and that is when I met the divine Donna Mitchell, who along with Grace Coddington taught me more in three days about photography and fashion and beauty than I had ever learnt before. Those lessons have stayed with me throughout my career and have served as the view of make up that has informed all my work. The above picture of Donna Mitchell in a clear perspex mask and lattice vinyl body by Pierre Cardin is greatly enhanced by the make up in the image and has become a very iconic Vogue image, which was included in Vogue: Voice of A Century.
It was a revelation when Donna came out of the dressing room. The make-up by the legendary Gil (as he was called) included painting her face turquoise and her eyelids purple. I lit a white back drop with blue light to give a feeling of space as black was too heavy and it worked well with the make up. I remember Gil and Grace gave out a silent gasp when I peeled back the polaroid and off we went to a fabulous dinner to celebrate. One can only photograph what is in front of the camera, this is my most frequently used refrain and I know it sound obvious. The reason I am saying this is because as a photographer you must choose the right subject, this combined with light and models expression gives the image its stunning form. So choosing the right team, that of a great stylist, hair, make-up and model is essential and then one gets the result.
I met Serge Lutens on a shoot for British Vogue, when I arrived I went to the dressing room and saw he had a large bucket of red ochre clay. My muse Anne Schaufuss pictured above sat patiently in the chair as Serge dipped his hands in the bucket and proceeded to cover her head in red cosmetic clay. He didn’t cover her eyes and her lips free which he later made up. He had a wooden African broad toothed comb which he proceeded to indent the comb patter allover Annes head starting at her forehead. I said ‘That looks fantastic’ even though it was still wet I could see what he was trying to create so beautifully. He then to my amazement decided to dry the clay on her face with a powerful hairdryer so it cracked on her face like the baked earth of the desert. I lit it with a golden light from behind and I particularly like the sticky red mouth contrasting with the red matt clay. This was taken in the early 70s and I was truly in awe of the genius of Serge Lutens who then went on to be the head of Shiseido. When session was over I went into the dressing room and kissed Anne (who was my girlfriend) and had persevered with such complex make up so I gave her a kiss on her red lips and then the clay covered us both and we cried laughing.
Anthony Clavet was the make-up artist with on my first shoot in India for Harpers. He was already into organic and natural remedies and he did hair and make up. I asked him what we were going to do with the green plants in his hand and this bucket of yellow paste just before we started shooting. He said “you’ll see” and he and the model disappeared into my suite in the Rambagh Palace in Rajasthan. He emerged two hours later and presented me with this fabulous look. I asked him why and he said “this is what the locals use on their hair”. I only had one hand flash unit with a piece of gauze tapped over the light while my Indian assistant Sante held it the exact position I told him too. Thankfully in the burning heat it all turned out fine and I remember Willy Landels the art director of Harpers whispering over my shoulder into my ear “Extraordinary”
The image above is of Roy Brown made up by the exceptionally talented and my dear friend Richard Sharah. He asked me to some pictures for Attitude Magazine. I wondered what he was doing when he demanded that my assistant go out and buy four boxes of brass drawing pins and get a move on. My bewildered assistant looked at me as if I might spare him the trouble and I yelled “Just go!”. In the meantime Roy popped his head around the dressing room corner ( I couldn’t help noticing he was painted blue) and said, “Am I done” to Richard. To which Richard exclaimed in his thick Australian accent ” No Get back in their Darling, I’m waiting for the drawing pins” At which point Roy looked at me non-plussed and said ‘What?”. Ten minutes later the breathless assistant returned and handed Richard four boxes of drawing pins. The assistant came back out and said in a shocked tone “He’s sticking them on Roys face!” I said “Really, not pinning them into his skin surely”. He said “I don’t know” I thought well I can’t hear screams from the dressing room so I will just wait. 15 minutes later Richard came out, and I said “What does, he look like” to which Richard retorted in his usual brash way “Spunk on toast Darling, Spunk on toast”. Richard was my dear witty, imaginative friend who smoked three packs of menthol cigarettes a day which sadly contributed to his passing far too soon.
- 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