I know one always says all these things about stunning actresses and models but Charlotte Rampling really was so great to work with. Even when I asked her if I could pour water over her head. She said yes and then my assistant was duly instructed to stand on a tall ladder and sprinkle water over her from a large watering can.
Later on I would repeat this technique with the wonderful Marianne Faithful, the pouring water over celebrities head’s technique. On reflection is this some kind of baptism or blessing by photography, from my obscure perspective ha, ha? Seems strange obviously because I am no saint, just a struggling Buddhist. The thing was with Charlotte nothing was a problem she was willing to trust me to get the image.
She was to me very glamorous but incredibly approachable, she was so easy to be around and work with. The details and nuances of the slightest movement of her head, the expressions in her eyes, from sensual to innocence, she just had complete control of her face. She really knew the camera and the camera adored her. When I looked over contacts and transparencies every shot was usable and some were utterly remarkable.
Charlotte was my first celebrity cover as I had only just started working with British Vogue in 1970. When they asked me to do the cover with her I was delighted and quite shocked. After I submitted my choices from the contacts and transparencies Vogue chose an image that I didn’t agree with for the cover. They did use the black and white image at the top of this blog in the magazine and this has become one of my favourite photographs. I lit this picture (above) with the shadows falling across her face embracing her form. I did this to imitate the lighting of the renaissance, the chiaroscuro (the strong contrast between light and dark). One cannot use this lighting in every case but Charlotte has the perfect features for this technique.
In the early 90s I shot Charlotte again, when she came over from Paris and she had a wonderful Parisian chic look and again everything fell into place. She was more worldly wise but just as striking. She was happily married to Jean Michel Jarre the electronic composer and she really did seem like a woman in love and as beautiful and wonderful as ever to work with.