Susie Cave – Vivid Beauty

The first time I worked with Susie Bick (as she was then) was for Harrods . She had the most incredible black hair and piercing green eyes. She was quite shy but in front of the camera every look she did was a look that worked. She was an incredibly in demand model and I was lucky to get her for that shoot because she was so sought after by the major photographers of the time.

We had so many outfits because it was for the Harrods Luxury Christmas Brochure and the choice of garments was amazing. I thought that she would look great in the scuba diving outfit which was bright yellow and black (like her raven black hair). My assistants sprayed her with ice-cold water mixed with glycerine because warm water just evaporated in the warm studio too quickly. I was amazed but she didn’t complain at all. She looked like a precursor to the Marvel Agents of Shield franchise, bold, dynamic and sensual. Her eyes full of feline grace that really created a penetrating vision when she looked into camera.

The paradox was that although in the coffee breaks and in the dressing room she was quiet , shy and reserved, in front of the camera she became this siren of vivid beauty. I adored working with her and capturing that enigmatic quality.

Shi at Shi Cashmere called me about her couture cashmere collection and said, “Who can we get that is really dynamic for the cover of my brochure.” I immediately thought of Susie and she agreed she was amazing and we shot this picture (below). The beautiful shock of seeing Susie in primary colours with her light skin, black hair and blood red lips never failed to work for me.

When I was asked to shoot the Pirelli Calender with the theme of heroines, Martyn Walsh (then art director of Pirelli and AD at Saatchi and Saatchi) and I had a casting in Paris. However we still couldn’t find our Scottish heroine so I had a eureka moment and said, “What about Susie Bick?”. Martyn said “Can we get her?” I said I would speak to her agent. I rang her London agent from Paris and said’ “Can we have Susie for the Pirelli Calendar?”

Susie could not come out immediately and I was shooting 12 global heroines and she could not make it till end of the shoot because she was so booked. We were shooting in the Massive Central in the middle of France, where we had mapped out all the various locations. Which had taken Martyn and I over two weeks to do. We drove all across France to find 12 perfect locations, that would fit with the global theme for each heroine. Martyn was most put out by my rally type driving (in an old Lancia Sporto that we’d hired), which kept on rattling and nearly breaking down in the middle of nowhere. This made Martyn understandably nervous as we criss crossed the dusty, rubble strewn mountain roads to find the back drops for each shot.

The last set up we found was an old wrecked castle watch tower at the top of a track over looking the valley. Susie was going to be flown in and then driven to the location. The entire crew of 15 were staying in this rudimentary hotel nearby. Susie was flown into a small airport some miles away and was driven through the night to the hotel. The evening before we had put a big notice on the door to say, ‘press the bell and the concierge will come and let you in and take you to your room’.

In the morning, there was no sign of Susie when we sat down for an early breakfast, which made Martyn and I panic as this was the last shot for the Pirelli Heroines calendar. Fortunately one of the assistants went outside and found her asleep in the car and brought her in. She had not read the note and had stayed asleep in the car. I said as she walked in “Oh, Susie thank God you are here” and we all jumped up and were so relieved. She had not wanted to bother anyone which is how gentle and sweet she is.

Fast forward to the 50th Anniversary Pirelli Exhibition a grand event where many of the celebrated photographers and some models attended a gala dinner for 500 people. The whole thing was exquisitely done, in typically Italian style with great panache. As I sat with Martyn Walsh I felt a light tap on my shoulder and as I turned around there was the divine Susie Cave looking as wonderful as ever. It’s delightful to see that she is doing such great design work herself now as The Vampires Wife.

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