The wonderful and gifted British Vogue editor Grace Coddington, myself, model Anne Schaufuss (my then love and muse) and Willie Christie (my erstwhile assistant) set off early one morning in my custom red Gordon Keeble sports car (with a Chevy engine) for Deauville. We packed all the stuff up outside my Kensington house, all the clothes and equipment were crammed in to the boot and on the laps of Grace and Anne in the tiny back seats. I just took Nikon F with me plus a set of lenses, including my favorite 180 Sonnar F2.8 which I had, had adapted for the Nikon. I shot everything on 400 ASA TRI X (black & white film) and Ektachrome Colour 100 ASA.
We drove all the way through La Belle France to Normandy. I had heard of Deauville in books and articles as the playground of high society with casinos, horse racing and much to entertain the wealthy of Europe although I had never seen any photographs. I had always adored Bathing Time at Deauville (1865) by painter Eugène Boudin while I was at art school. I just loved the name and idea of it for a shoot, which was a giant leap of faith as I had never been and I’d only seen the painting, so it existed merely as a myth. At the production meeting at Vogue House with Beatrice Miller and Grace Coddington they had both asked me if I had any ideas for my next shoot and I’d just said “Deauville it’s just across the channel in Normandy and it’s amazing” (only ever having envisioned it in my dreams). “That sounds wonderful and very Vogue”, said Beatrice smiling through a cloud of cigarette smoke. So Deauville it was.
We drove through France with Willie navigating, while Grace and Anne happily chatted away in the very crammed back seats, which looked something like a haberdashery store as they were covered in accessories, make up stuff, and fashion apparel. Once we started shooting Grace did the make up and styling, it was just four of us on the trip. I had heard about the classic casino in the center of Deauville that was very chic and had been the ultimate place to be in France in the 1800’s & 1920’s I mentioned it at the planning meeting because it sounded like the best fit for the clothes. I also really I wanted to take my new car for a long drive. I did not know what it looked like so it was something of an unknown quantity as a venue for the shoot.
When we got there Deauville was built on the side of a hill, a beautiful town with this huge massive expansive beach with fishermen shrimping and collecting clams (not what I had in mind at all). The beach was sparsely populated aside from the little pony carts that you could hire to drive yourself up and down the beach. However it was beautiful so I just worked with the minimalist horizontal lines of sky, ocean and sand there was also a little pier, with a lovely National Geographic style lighthouse at the end of it.
I shot on the beach working with the reflections on the watery sand of the sky and Ann just looking radiant within the frame, it, we stayed away from the glamour of the casinos and the racetrack and worked with the simplicity of the beach and random but beautiful settings we came across like the shrine of the Madonna that we found that was typical of many we saw as we drove around. Grace has since told me that one of her favourite shots by me is of Anne’s back view while walking down the pier towards the lighthouse. She loved the fact that the sole of Anne’s fishing boots (that we purchase in Deauville) showed all the hobnails in detail.
Grace styled everything with so much sympathy for the environment, meticulously and down to the last detail. It’s so important to work with great people who instinctively know how to capture the moment and feeling in their styling. Grace thankfully had researched Deauville and got the right kind of fashion to fit the freewheeling holiday feeling without it being too fashion and yet containing the essence of the fashion images we needed to deliver.
I found an old winery full of unattended wine bottles and I photographed Anne sitting amongst the bottles too. We had the most wonderful time you could even imagine as photographer and muse. I was delighted to be with my beautiful girlfriend Anne Shaufuss working for the best fashion magazine in the world, with the most excellent stylist and my great friend and assistant Willie Christie. Willie went on to become a fantastic photographer himself working for Vogue and ended up married to Grace Coddington (so perhaps the romance of that trip rubbed off on them). Retrospectively it is extraordinary that four fashion greats had this amazing fashion adventure in Deauville and created these lovely fresh images of the shrimp maiden Anne (wearing a bonnet and looking like someone from Deauville’s historic past). It was a divine trip full of special memories and fun. One particularly stands out for me, the moment Willie and Anne chased up and down the beach in the bijou pony and cart and us all laughing, loving life and photographing the moment.