French Vogue asked me to go and do a beauty shoot in Paris. I was married at the time and my American wife who was an exceptional catwalk model said she wanted to come with me to show her portfolio. We flew into Paris and stayed at the incredible Art Deco George V Hotel where French Vogue had put us up. I arrived at Vogue studios the next morning and my wife said she was going shopping. I was then introduced to the stylist whose name I cannot recall. He was the most elegantly dressed and hyperactive man I have ever met. He was wearing a beautiful tight fitted waistcoat over a white silk cavalier shirt. He looked like an immaculate musketeer. He was tanned, elegant and poised and every time he spoke it was like something from the French theatre. He said “Bonjour Clive, I see pure beauty in your work, pure beauty” which was a phrase he repeated often as the shoot progressed. It became a catch phrase through out the day, as I took photos he would respond and exclaim “Pure Beauty” to the point where it became quite comedic, as he was getting more and more passionate as the day went on. I have never been with such an enthusiastic and energetic stylist in my life. This is probably somewhat surprising to those of you that know how excitable I can get but this elegant stylist out paced me on this occasion with his repeated exclamations of “Pure Beauty”.
I lit the pictures with a Balcar focussing spot, so I could control the dramatic shadows on the face. The Balcar brings out the natural sparkle in diamonds or jewels without the need of those awful kitsch star filters; it was also used in many of the old Hollywood movies that I love. The make up took most of the morning with a wonderful French make-up artist. We took one shot before lunch and during my lunch break I went outside and saw the legendary photographer Horst over looking the Parisian square outside the studio. He was smoking a cigarette that was held between his ring and little finger, inhaling deeply and elegantly breathing out in a dramatic hand gesture. He was wearing a bright blue jacket, green Lacoste shirt and unusually what looked like an Eton school tie around his neck. Accompanied with pale blue trousers and some very brightly coloured shoes. Jerry Hall walked out of the studio and said ‘Hi Clive” in her unmistakable Texan drawl “let me introduce you to Mr Horst’ and he looked at me with mixture of indifferent amusement while exhaling even more Gitanes . He nodded a faint smile and carried on looking across the square and I don’t think he even heard me saying, “I love and admire your work”.
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My wife arrived saying she’d been to see Francine Cresent legendary and innovative editor of French Vogue. I said, “Did you make an appointment?” she said “No Honey, I just strode in there” I admired her confidence. After the shoot I went to see Francine myself as she had said she would like to say hello. She was as I expected, an elegant and beautiful French lady and invited me to stay and shoot fashion for a few more days. She also mentioned that she had seen my wife and seen her portfolio and said she was “A nice girl with the figure of a mannequin”. Whenever I look at these pictures I hear the echo of “Pure Beauty” again and again.
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- 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 hereand Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here