Her images are unmistakeable. Coming from a time where beauty was inseparable from full-on glamour, Corinne Day’s work is the antithesis of the 80s aesthetic. Where all others employed the ‘bigger is better’ method, Day found beauty in natural scenes – grubby feet and scruffy hair included. The fashion world will always reference Day, not just for her revolutionary style of photography but her association with Kate Moss and for popularising grunge chic. A new exhibition at Gimpel Fils gallery ‘May the Circle Remain Unbroken’ shows previously unseen images by Day, curated by her widow Mark Szaszy. The exhibition focuses on snapshots that she took of friends and family. Schön! spoke to Day’s close friend and long-time stylist collaborator Karl Plewka about working with Corinne, her lasting influence on his work and why she would not have approved of Instagram.
Corinne’s name is almost always followed by the epithet ‘The woman who discovered Kate Moss’ – but as her friend and collaborator you must know her as so much more than that. How would you sum her up?
It is actually incorrect to say Corinne discovered Kate Moss – that was Sarah Doukas the owner of Storm Agency who first saw Kate at JFK airport when she was 14. Corinne was indeed responsible for doing some of the most important images of Kate, particularly the early ones for The Face, but I don’t like the constant association people place on Corinne and Kate – they are and were their own people with their own individual talents. In my view Corinne was an iconoclast who reacted against the violently glamorous fashion images of the 1980s with an entirely fresh, exciting, yet uncompromising point of view.
What was it like working with Corinne? Did you ever disagree or have different ideas?
Working with Corinne was a privilege and has had a lasting effect on me and how I work today. Corinne really pushed me to think hard about ideas and the process could be difficult. Of course we disagreed sometimes but Corinne was very open to the ideas of those she worked with and was never dictatorial. She mainly surrounded herself with people who inspired her so the creative energy was constant and exhilarating.
We’re thoroughly under the Corinne Day spell; her work will always inspire and intrigue the viewer. What do you think it is about her work that keeps us all hanging on?
Corinne’s work shows moments in time for what they were and yet it is timeless. This fact is very clear when you look at her images from the 1990s in the new exhibition “May The Circle Remain Unbroken“. I hope her work continues to influence and inspire young people in particular, she would have liked that.
What is different about this exhibition than previous showcases?
In the new exhibition are images that document some of the people Corinne most liked to photograph. They are not necessarily fashion photographs but could be. They convey a sense of freedom, humour and the nonchalant beauty of youth. They also really show a lot of Corinne’s own character which makes it quite an emotional experience for me. It’s both a celebration of Corinne and a celebration of life.
In a time where taking the perfect picture involves getting the right ‘selfie’ angle and choosing the most flattering filter, Corinne’s stripped back approach is totally refreshing – even in a retrospective. Do you think mass culture could ever come full circle and be spontaneous and natural like Corinne’s work?
Although there is spontaneity in Corinne’s work hers was still a considered approach. She didn’t just photograph any old thing. She was selective and uncompromising. The attitude today with things like Instagram is that anything and anyone is interesting to look at. I think she would have been horrified by that. Corinne had a very disciplined eye which could not be further from today’s mass culture and its worship of the banal.
What is your creative process when working on shoots now, and has it been influenced by your experiences with Corinne?
Working with Corinne really taught me discipline and focus. Corinne was very involved in the styling on every shoot and she was relentless and uncompromising when it came to the clothes. I miss her so much and I always think to myself “What would Corinne think about this?” when I’m putting looks together for a shoot. She will always be there for me in that sense.
Which is your favourite image that you created together and why?
I don’t really have one favourite fashion image that we did together but for my 30th birthday Corinne gave me an album of snapshots taken on a day at a summer rave in 1993. In it are the most beautiful images of Corinne, Mark (her husband) and one of our mutual best friends Neil Moodie. We are quite out of it, rolling around a wheat field and having the time of our lives. It is my most treasured possession.
Words / Rachel McCulloch