Candid shots: Kate Moss opens up
In her new photo-biography, Kate: The Kate Moss Book, the supermodel talks candidly about posing topless, her prostitute shoes and her Lucian Freud tattoo.
17 NOVEMBER 2012
This conversation takes place in Kate's Highgate family home. Light streams through the open French doors and into the large sitting-room once inhabited by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Underneath an original Peter Blake collage of the Sgt Pepper's album cover, Kate and Jess Hallett, her close friend and long-time collaborator, take a moment to reflect on a personal history, that Jess, more intimately than anyone in Kate's life, has been witness to.
KATE MOSS When did you first start working at Storm? I was there from the age of 14, but you weren't working there yet, were you?
JESS HALLETT No, but I stood next to Sarah Doukas [the founder of Storm modelling agency who discovered Kate] watching the first show you ever did for John Galliano. You came out in this section called the "Wild Childs", and Sarah said, "Oh look! There's my Kate!" Then when I started at Storm, I remember seeing you in a Bettina Rheims picture in 1989 and saying, "Oh, my God, that's amazing!" Then you came in after school one day and I introduced myself and said, "I love this picture of you." You weren't too keen on it, though, were you?
KM I hated it! Because I was topless again! I hated my boobs more than anything as a teenager. I'd do anything not to take my top off. I see nudity as empowering now. Before I didn't. I cried for years!
JH You always knew what you wanted to do, though, even when you were at school - you had an opinion right from the start. I remember phoning your mum and your dad and asking whether you could do jobs - you knew exactly where you wanted to go, and you knew who everybody was.
KM (Laughs) How did I know though?! It's weird! I guess I used to hang out with real fashionistas in Croydon. I mean, I knew I wasn't a Company magazine girl, Marie Claire and all that. I wasn't really their cup of tea.
Kate: The Kate Moss Book is available in a choice of eight covers
JH I'd have to get a certain amount of go-sees per day, otherwise I'd incur the wrath of Sarah Doukas. I would have to have at least eight appointments for every single model. I used to phone Smile [the agency for photographers, hair and make-up] because they would always say, "Oh, yes, we like Kate very much, and she's lovely, so we don't mind." Everything changed after the cover for The Face  by Corinne [Day], though.
KM When Phil Bicker [the art director on the Face] was casting, he already knew me. I remember going to Crunch [a legendary West London studio] in my school uniform to meet [the photographer] Mark Lebon. Somehow I already knew about Crunch and that whole scene. I was really attracted to it.
JH And you had those Vivienne Westwood shoes! I couldn't believe you had them, at 15 years old!
KM (Laughs) The brown crocodile prostitute shoes! You had to have Westwood in Croydon otherwise you weren't cool! Do you remember Subterranea under the Westway? I used to get the train from Croydon. I'd be leaving my house and my mum would say, "Where are you going?!" At midnight, I'd leave the house in a crotch mini and a T-shirt, and that was it - prostitute shoes at 15! Subterranea was amazing. Everyone in London would go, Boy George, John Galliano, Kylie... everybody. Jimmy B [the hairdresser James Brown] would always put a look together for me. When we used to go to clubs, he'd put me in the tiniest shorts ever. I wish I still had them; they were amazing! They were hipsters with three buttons. They were like a belt! And he'd always go, "You look amazing! You gotta go out like that! You gotta wear it!"
JH It's a social thing for you.
KM Yeah. I still love my job because it's never the same. When I go to work, it's never the same story, never the same photograph, never the same people. It's definitely about people for me. I moved in with Mark Lebon and Camilla Arthur [who ran a photographic agency] as a kid, so I was right in there with the Crunch lot - my dreams had come true! They were like a surrogate family, because they knew everything and looked after me.
JH Would you say they first introduced you to the industry?
KM Yeah. Glen Luchford [a photographer] was there, and Mario Sorrenti. And there was this sort of backlash to all of that glamour - that whole Versace thing. I remember people like Corinne and David Sims saying: "We are going to change the way people see things, we are going to change the world..." I thought, "Don't be ridiculous, it's a fashion picture - you can't change things with a fashion picture." But they did!
JH Before you went to New York, the travelling you did was crazy. I left Storm and you said, "I want you to come." It really was a whirlwind. There were so many requests for you, it was unbelievable. Your chart was insane! I think the reason we bonded was because we were able to chat and it made you feel normal. I was just there to make sure you were all right.
KM I used to be on my own at airports all the ****ing time. It was so incredibly lonely. I was alone a lot at the beginning. Then with you I wasn't on my own all the time any more! You were there when it started to go absolutely mad, when I was doing eight shows a day for two months... crazy, going to parties every night, not sleeping very much at all. I couldn't do that now. But when I moved to New York, I was travelling all the time with Johnny [Depp] and living in hotels. I did love it, though. I spent seven years in New York. I do miss, you know, those days.
JH I used to come and stay all the time.
KM Do you remember when I first went to Bazaar? Paul Cavaco [the fashion director] styled the story. He said, "Oh, you're the same size as me! Like a little doll!" because obviously, having been dressing these six foot glamazon girls... I did story after story for Liz [Tilberis, the editor of Harper's Bazaar], we got on really well. She was fabulous. Even in that madness of New York fashion, she was completely grounded. I used to talk to her about football because her husband was a massive football fan - she never intimidated me, and a lot of people can when you are young.
JH That Patrick Demarchelier story led to Calvin Klein.
KM Yeah, Patrick was shooting the new campaign for Calvin. Bruce [Weber] had done it for years, and Calvin had asked Patrick to do it. They wanted Vanessa Paradis, but she said no. I can still remember asking Paul Cavaco, "Do you think I should do this Calvin contract?" And he said, "You know what? You're so small, you might not last. It could be all over in a season! Take the money and run!" I worked for Calvin for eight years.
JH The fact that you would even question it.
KM I just didn't know if it was right for me. I thought it might stop me being able to do other things. I think I just saw it all as a way of getting out of Croydon. I definitely didn't want to stay where I was.
JH From the start, even when you were very young, it's obvious you had an understanding of what makes a photograph interesting.
KM Yeah, when I do pictures, I don't think it's me. I do feel like it's someone else. There is definitely an understanding between the photographer and model and who the person is that you are trying to create. I didn't know that I understood that's how it works, or my role in the creative process. If you are true to yourself, then no one else can copy it. It's kind of rebellious to be yourself.
JH (Laughs) Your rebellious streak. A double-edged sword!
KM Yeah. It's worked in some ways but not in others. (Laughs)
JH Most people would have felt some obligation, suddenly becoming well-known, with people who look up to you, but that wasn't something that you were ever worried about.
KM But the things they were saying about me were so far away from who I was! **EDITED** I wasn't any of those things that they were painting me to be. I was lucky to be with Johnny at that stage. He taught me a lot about fame. He told me "never complain, never explain". That's why I don't use Twitter and things like that. I don't want people to know what is true all the time, and that's what keeps the mystery, really.
JH This is also why there's no personal imagery in here or personal notations - it's photography, it's work, and it's about your relationship with the image makers.
KM Yeah, and Fabien's art direction is incredible. [Moss met the creative director Fabien Baron, who edited this book, on her first job for Harper's Bazaar.] Obviously, these are all my favourite pictures, but I think he has brought a structure and point of view that feels modern. It's definitely photography as an art form, that's what I strive for.
JH Each image stands alone, and what's great is that there are pictures next to each other that are twenty years apart...
KM True, and it's not a biography. I don't want it to be looking back, because I still don't feel like I'm done, I'm not finished yet. It's a proper grown-up book, though. (Laughs) I've finally grown up! And there are images in there that I hadn't seen in a really long time, like the Avedon shoot for Versace  - so, so decadent and beyond. We were in the studio for ten days. But we had such a laugh! Avedon would be like, "Throw yourself around!!! Leap! Dance!" And then Joe McKenna and Guido [Palau, the hairdresser] were like, "No! Don't do that!" So I had a massive conflict of interest, and Avedon would say, "Leap!" It was amazing. Every morning he would bring me a book - a signed book! I really liked working with him.
JH Some of my favourite pictures in this book are of you just being spontaneous and yourself.
KM Remember the Mert and Marcus rope pictures? There was hair and make-up there, but no stylist, obviously, because it was just a bit of rope. I brought my Vivienne Westwood sex shoes and I brought bits, like a leather glove and a basque, and we just did what we felt like doing. I think the one picture in here that is the most me, though, is the Juergen Teller of me with pink hair in bed. Because it is us just having a laugh in my bed. There wasn't a hair or make-up artist or anything. It's more like working with an artist, working with Juergen. When I first did that thing with the YBAs for British Vogue [May 2000], I hadn't really done anything with an artist before, but every time I met the artists, there would be an idea. They would say, "This is my idea, this is how I see you." A photographer had never spoken to me about the idea behind the image in that way. But with someone like Tracey Emin, we talked for four hours before she did any drawings, so it was really a completely different experience. I remember when Gary Hume did a picture of me called Invisible, which you can only see in a certain light. He said that he went to the ballet, and the ballerina was so ethereal that she almost became invisible, and that he thought that's what I was like, because you can be there but also not be there at all - every artist I worked with had an idea.
JH I think Lucian Freud was probably your longest single pose in history.
KM I loved working with him. He was so amazing. Yeah, it was really long and I did learn discipline from him. The portrait was nine months, seven days a week, from seven p.m. until two in the morning. I could not be one minute late. He was really powerful. You wanted to please him. But I wish I hadn't posed like that. It's just the first thing I did - I fell on the side of the sofa and he said, "That's fine," and started painting. It's not like modelling, where you can change it. I had a dead arm. Did you know I got tattooed by Lucian? He did it with an etching pen. It's a flock of birds. One night he said to me, "I used to do tattoos in the navy, on the ship, I used to do all the sailors' tattoos." And I said, "Oh my God, that's amazing!" So he said, "Would you like one?"
JH You must be worth millions!
KM (Laughs) If it all goes horribly wrong I could get a skin graft and sell it! It's probably the only one on skin that's still around, because when he was in the Navy he was about 19. Can you imagine?
JH You've always loved rock'n'roll. Do you think you would have liked to have been in a band?
KM Well, I would have loved to get on a bus with all my mates and go from gig to gig, so in my next life, probably! But then I did it with Jamie [Hince] for a couple of days and I was like, "Oh, take me back!" I had to get them to pick me up from Baltimore. I was like, "Please, this bus thing!!" It's a dream, but the actual reality of it... I can't do that.
JH (Laughs) Do you know what's coming next? Are you going to be able to do more photographs like these?
KM Well, I am never going to be 18 again, when I could do shoots with no make-up but it's not as though I don't want to have wrinkles, because I think it's important to have your own face that you live in. There are always new ways of looking through new eyes, and I think this book is about that. I was speaking to Keith Richards at the weekend. The Stones are releasing a new album of their old stuff that hasn't been heard, but they wanted to record new tracks, and he said, "Mick's just phoned me." They are going to Paris to record - they are going to make a new song. It's that thing of, "Hang on, I haven't finished..."
JH That could be the title for the book.
KM (Laughs) I like that: "Hang On, I Haven't Finished..." It's very Peter Cook!
Last edited by Psylocke; 18-11-2012 at 06:35 AM. Reason: edited for weight and drug talk
I love all her interviews. They're always very insightful. I feel like she doesn't hold back in them. It's always pure Kate. I wish she'd give more, but I understand her need for privacy.
I can't wait to get my hands on that book! I hope there are many more unseen pictures (for me at least). Thanks for posting, Melancholybaby
Thank you, Melancholybaby!
I'm so in love with Kate's photos by Glen Luchford. Especially the one where she's "boxing" the camera. Genius!
"Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today" (James Dean)
|2012, december, june, kate, moss|