I first met Marina Schiano in Hanover Square at the offices of Vogue. Grace Coddington said to me “I have the most incredible Italian model for you to work with.” Grace was never prone to exaggeration, she added “You will adore her with your fetish for Renaissance faces. She’s in reception now, I’ll go and get her.”
I thought as I waited in the studio, I hope she’s right, she’s always been right. I started to check the lighting and set up the studio with my assistant. The next thing I knew I heard this wonderful, rich, husky Neapolitan voice say “Hello Clive” I turned around to be greeted by this statuesque beauty who glided across the room with a wide smile towards me. I looked at her and all my hopes where realised, here was a beauty like La Gioconda by Leonardo Da Vinci. Grace was right again.
I gave her a hug and then said, “Lets do some wonderful pictures” and she said “I’m so excited I love your work” and then went to the dressing room with Grace. My dear friend Leonard was doing the hair and the genius Gil was doing the make up. Later that year Gill and I shot the Paris couture collections together. Gil stunned everyone with his amazing blue astral space age make up on Donna Mitchell wearing Pierre Cardin.
I heard various howls of laughter from the dressing room from Leonard, Gill and Marina whose laughter was the loudest. I did wonder what they were doing and what was so funny. Marina then emerged from the dressing room with what I recall was a real Cartier diamond encrusted arrow. Leonard and Gill followed her talking and laughing to themselves, having a self congratulatory conversation about how fabulous she looked. ‘Clivio” said Leonard, “Look what we’ve brought you!”
She looked beautiful and I knew that I didn’t want this to be a funny image as much as everyone found it so amusing. Once Marina was under the lights she looked angelic and I asked Grace to get more white silk to drape across her. They all continued to giggle excitedly and I understood it was amusing but I had to say, “Everyone please, let’s just be quiet for minute and let’s just look. Let’s not get carried away, let’s just see this for what this is” Gill piped up, “Yes, Maestro” because that is what he used to call me.
A moment of reverence and silence fell on the studio as I looked and lit Marina. Fortunately she instinctively new what I was trying to achieve and didn’t behave in a kookie oddball way. I wanted her to look like she had been struck by cupids arrow and at the same time I recall the cupid was also eros the good of desire and erotic love.
As soon as they all saw the first polaroid from the back of my Hasselblad they all wanted one and I think I used a whole pack. For any of you who follow my musings on this blog and aspire to take pictures; I have found that stopping for a moment of silent reflective looking always helps me visualise how to capture the moment. Sometimes we’re too eager to press the shutter and take the picture straight away without realising that it is a silent image. Its voice speaks through the final photograph. We worked on more images that day where Marina looked so graceful, elegant and beautiful.
After the first shoot, I worked with Marina and Leonard and Gill again and we did a whole set of beauty pictures for the Observer with Liz Smith. We became a close knit gang for a while and Liz Smith got me into Yves Saint Laurents private salon. Coincidentally Marina also become known as one of Yves Saint Laurents muses. Marina also went on to become a well known stylist and socialite working as the stylist for Vanity Fair (Tina Brown era).