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Corinne Day: The Face

Corinne Day: The Face

From what I can remember of the Nineties there was a fair amount of high jinx and debauchery that went on, but there was one threesome that summed up the spirit of the decade more than any other and that was the one between a young Kate Moss, photographer Corinne Day and The Face magazine.

Corinne first started snapping a 15-year-old Kate for The Face in 1990 and the resulting images redefined fashion photography forever. Here was a freckly, fledgling Kate in a Red Indian headdress, beads and no top, there in a vest and pants with a kooky hat, here on a beach, devoid of make-up, laughing her head off and clutching a sun hat to protect her modesty and there in cut-offs and flip flops wandering through a rough-looking neighbourhood in Borneo.

Serving as an antidote to the Eighties era of Amazonian supermodels, big hair, shoulder pads and too much make-up, Corinne’s pictures of Kate, and those she went on to take of other fresh-faced young things, were innocent, raw, joyful and provocative all at the same time, and the non-airbrushed, slightly knock-kneed imperfection they portrayed was bracing.

Although Day’s work may have been partly inspired by her time as a model herself, sharing digs with other girls, living on coffee and cigarettes, the term ‘heroin chic’ it was tagged with was naively off the mark.

For the most part, her images were alive with the insouciance of youth, symbolising a quirky, individual, very British beauty, clothed in what appeared to be a mix of dressing-up box and second-hand odds and sods, with not a stitch of cashmere or a trophy bag in sight. They were amongst some of the first signs that the Cool Brittania cavalry were on the way and they will ever be imprinted on my style DNA.

I never met Corinne Day, but when she lost her battle with brain cancer just over a year ago, aged 48, I had this strange feeling of losing a someone I’d hung out with, so to see some of her early work again is like visiting an old friend and reliving more carefree times.

Corinne Day: The Face
Now until 1 October 2011
Gimpel Fils Gallery, 30 Davies Street, W1K 4NB
www.gimpelfils.com