The America Issue – For British Vogue with Ann Schaufuss Part 1 (East Coast)

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Grace Coddington rang me and said “We need to meet to talk about a trip to America with you and  Ann (Schaufuss). Can you come into Vogue for a production meeting. Parkinson is doing the West Coast and WE are doing the East Coast”. I was initially upset not to have the West Coast but I was soon cheered up by the fact that Grace was going to be the stylist as she was and is the best Fashion Editor on the planet. “Oh!” she said “There’s one thing in amongst a load of other things I have to tell you.” I thought Oh, here we go, there was usually ‘one thing’ with Vogue, that meant a LOT of things.  “Er ….Okay I ventured trepidatiously “What is the one thing?”. “We have to photograph all of us going up the steps getting  onto the BOAC aircraft (affectionately known as Better Of On A Camel at the time) ” “Oh, no that sounds really boring, why don’t we put Ann on the  wing of the plane” I replied, immediately excited at the prospect. After a long pause with a ‘you cannot be serious’ sigh Grace said “Okay, I will see if they will let us do it.”

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Later Grace called me to say we had the okay for the aeroplane wing shoot. So we went down to Heathrow a couple of days before we were due to leave for the US.  The airport staff supplied us with raised remote platforms and we hoisted Ann onto the wing.  I stood with the camera and my fab assistant Willie Christie (who later married Grace Coddington) on an adjoining platform. I had not idea how high up it was  going to be and Ann was very nervous. “Is it okay?’ she said. I said “Yes, you’ll be fine my darling Annie (because she was my muse)” not realising the strong the wind was starting to blow. As you can see from the picture there was a storm on the horizon and claps of thunder shook the aircraft. After a couple of speedy electrifying rolls of 35mm film on a Nikon F with a 28 mm sense, I knew I’d got the shot. I nearly walked backwards off the platform with excitement, but Willie grabbed me just in time. Once the pictures were processed Grace and Better Off On A Camel were very happy with them.

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We arrived in New York a few days later, I was pretty merry to say the least as at that time I hated flying. So I, along with Willie anaesthetised ourselves by imbibing the grape and the grain (Willie made an effort to keep up but he was not as committed as I was. Grace and Annie, looked on disapprovingly throughout the flight. As soon as we landed in New York, Willie and I, after dropping our stuff of at the hotel, rushed around to Manny’s Music the legendary Manhattan guitar store. I bought a Gibson J200 Acoustic (Blonde) influenced by the cover of Bob Dylan’s album Nashville Skyline. It was a very beautiful looking guitar, although I found it was not as resonant as my Martin D35. I also bought a Gretch Viking electric guitar.

On our way back in the courtesy limo, guitars in tow, I asked the driver to take us through China Town. I loved it and once we arrived back at the hotel I told Grace how great  it would be for a shoot. The next morning we went to China town, I asked Grace if she had anything that would work in that context and she came up with, as always this fabulous Pablo and Delia Dress (pictured above). Grace noticed this very good looking young Chinese guy and she said to Willie “Ask him if he’ll be in the picture”. He agreed and Grace put him in a golden jacket. I also love the expression on the elderly ladies face, she is oblivious to everything that is going on around her. A crowd had gathered as I was preparing to shoot, it was a glorious bright New York day. Willie held my shoulders as I walked backwards through the China town crowd with my motorised Nikon (again with a 28 mm lense).

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The above and first colour photograph in this story was shot as you can see on Liberty Island.In the first image Anne is wearing a Zandra Rhodes heavy cloak that needed movement to do it justice. Anne was an ex ballerina with the Royal Danish Ballet (she got too tall, so she became a model) her movement gave the image its vibrance. I was so blessed in the above black and white  shot,  a storm was gathering in the background, but Ann was leaping in a sharp pool of bright sunlight with the background two stops darker. This is my favourite kind of outdoor lighting. The image above shows the World Trade Centre (when there was only one tower) that was later destroyed in the terrible terrorist attack of 9/11, which was a really awful tragedy. One could never have imagined in ones wildest nightmares that in the future this terrible futile act would come to pass. Our experience of contemporary events can change the way you see a photograph over time.

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