One of the great stylists of our age Damian Foxe who is the Fashion Director for the FT’s ‘How To Spend It’ called me, “I’ve managed to get Rachel Kirby” (for our shoot) “Who” I said “Don’t worry she’s absolutely fabulous, you’ll see”. Knowing Damian as I did, I had complete faith in him. We shot at The Worx studio’s in Parson’s Green (London). The morning of the shoot my assistants and I and my set builder Ken, worked strenuously together to build a room, I painted the room flats, while Ken made the floor out of planks. I looked at the backdrop while I was painting and stepping back I thought this would make a great abstract minimalist painting (harking back to my art school days). I then realised I had got so carried away I had splattered paint everywhere and made a Jackson Pollock of myself and had ruined my new Nikes.
At this point Rachel walked in and I think she thought I was the set builder as I extended my paint-splattered hand. Which she looked at and politely refused to shake as I said, “I’m Clive, I’m the photographer”. I was completely amazed by how naturally beautiful and stunning she was and for a moment I didn’t know what to say, which is very unusual for me. I was speechless particularly as this was so early in her career and I think she was still at school or had only just left. Fortunately Damien swept in joyfully pushing a huge rail of amazing clothes that had just got delivered from Paris and Milan.
Rachel and the hair and make- up team all disappeared into the dressing room. Damian said to me, “Oh, my God, is the paint dry as these clothes are priceless couturier”. I immediately ordered the assistants to get an industrial heater to dry the set in readiness for the shoot. The concept for the shoot was black dresses and cerise boots in a pale grey room. I had seen at Neil Zarach’s store these wonderful clear Perspex chairs and tables, which I then had sent to the studio. I wanted Rachel to look from certain angles as if she was suspended in the air, which is what I new the Perspex would achieve.
Rachel appeared in the first Versace dress looking amazing, and I noticed she had the most feline eyes and very beautiful hands. The positioning of hands in fashion photography is sometimes I find really lacking. I am very particular about the form a models hand takes. I think this is because I have worked with ballerinas who always have that natural elegance in their hand movements, which can really make or break an image for me; I just love hands and have even photographed composer Philip Glass’s hands close up ( I will share this in another post).
The shoot rolled along so smoothly with so many innovations from Damian,and the hair and make up team. Rachel had a natural repose and elegant sensuality about her which really shone through. It was such an incredible experience working with such a wonderful team that I would happily have photographer her for days but we had to finish by 6 pm sharp, or we would have gone over the budget.
After we sat down in the cafe at The Worx studios reviewing the polaroids and Rachel didn’t say much but that she liked them, sadly I never saw or worked with her again which is something I regret. Damian and I were absolutely over the moon with Rachel the entire session and when the images were published I received many calls from other art directors and photographers complimenting the images. It shouldn’t matter but it is always great to receive a genuine reaction to your work from your peers.
- Clive Arrowsmith shoots stunning images, stages exhibitions, writes books, gives talks and runs workshops; 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