Corinne Day, one-time enfant terrible of British fashion photography, died on 27 August after a long illness.
Corinne shot to fame in 1990 with a fashion story for The Face that featured the then-unknown young model Kate Moss. A deliberate step away from the high-octane glamour of the 1980s photography and Amazonian models such as Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, it kick-started the trend for ‘grunge’ fashion and photography that opened the doors to shooters such as Juergen Teller and David Sims.
But grunge photogaphy soon became mired in controversy, blamed for glamorising drug abuse and for turning a generation of women into anorexics. In 1993 Corinne shot a lingerie shoot for British Vogue with Kate Moss in the model’s apartment, and found herseslf accused of promoting paedophilia (despite the fact that Moss was 18 years old). Soon after even then-US President Bill Clinton weighed in against ‘heroine chic’. Kate was advised not to work with Corinne again, despite the pair’s close friendship, and Corinne retreated from fashion photography.
She focused on other projects instead, shooting the cover for Moby’s 1999 album Play and helping her boyfriend Mark Szaszy shoot music videos. Corinne also embarked on an extensive personal project: a no-holds-barred, intimate depiction of herself and her friends – particularly her close friend Tara – that included images of drug abuse, bloodied knickers and her own hospitalisation after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1996. This work, which spanned seven years of Corinne’s life, was published as “Corinne Day: Diary” and was exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery in 2000.
“Diary” marked a turning point in Corinne’s career, as from that point on her work was accepted into the elite of the fine art world. Her images were included in shows such as Imperfect Beauty, curated by Charlotte Cotton at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2000, and The Face of Fashion at the National Portrait Gallery in 2007. Corinne was commissioned to shoot an image for the NPG show that would be added to its permanent collection — the only photographer ever asked to do so. She opted to shoot her original muse, Kate Moss, depicting the model in a series of images taken over the course of a conversation. Corinne also returned to fashion photography in 2000, shooting regularly for British, Italian and Japanese Vogue.
“It’s easier to shoot if you know the model well because they relax and you get more from them.”
Corinne Day, 2008
And Corinne certainly knew how to get emotion and soul out of her subjects, with the camera becoming friend, trustee and admirer. She will be well remembered and constantly referenced.