• Top

    Corinne Day and Susie Babchick

Photography

An in-depth interview with Corinne Day's agent and friend, Susie Babchick

Posted by Liv Siddall,

The curious work of Corinne Day seems to rear its ever-appealing head every now and again, just to remind us of a time gone by that we weren’t part of, and will never fully understand. Gaining worldwide notoriety with her famous, career-making shots of a teen Kate Moss on Camber Sands for The Face, Corinne’s groundbreaking photographs of quintessentially British, black-soled urchins were to become stuff of legend. Contrived shoots of hired models were never her thing, instead Corinne lifted her lens to those closest to her – the ones doing the washing up, smoking fags out of windows, watching telly. The fact that all her friends were rebellious models was just a bonus.

Three years after her untimely death, those that were closest to her have compiled a portion of Corinne’s life and work into a publication entitled May the Circle Remain Unbroken. Old friend Tara St. Hill, husband Mark Szaszy and ex-agent and friend Susie Babchick all came together to put into print a celebration of this extraordinary, rebellious woman’s life. In the days leading up to the book’s launch, Susie – who is now a photography consultant for Ridley Scott Associates – kindly told us about her relationship with Corinne, London in the 1990s, and that magical flat where Corinne’s best, most honest work was created.

Would you tell us a few lines about yourself and what you do?

I came to London at the very beginning of the 1990’s. I had just graduated from the University of Texas in Austin and I wanted to spend time working in the UK. I’ve been here ever since and after eventually running my own small photographic agency for ten years, I have recently joined RSA Films in Soho and represent a new photography division called RSA Photographic. We have photographers who make film and a selection of filmmakers who also have strong photography portfolios. Exciting times.

  • 4

    Corinne Day: Kate in Jumper on Chair

This exciting book has been a long time in the making! Why did it take such a long time?

That’s a good question, but I guess we never really know how long the run up to any release is. I have to remind myself that Corinne passed away in 2010 so to start a new book in 2011 was asking a lot. Corinne’s husband Mark spent some time in New Zealand which is where he is from – it was important for Mark to go back to his homeland and take it easy and explore. Besides that, the editing work started in one place in her archive and moved around. The book was evolving. Mark and Gimpel Fils gallery had Louise Bowan archive all of the negatives and then the book selection began. Tara St. Hill and Mark got to spend some good times together looking at all of the work for the first time ever without Corinne there. It had to be a therapeutic experience. They have not said that to me so much in words, but I feel that from talking to each of them.

  • 11

    Corinne Day: Untitled

The title of the exhibition is so beautiful, Heaven is Real – is there a story behind it?

That phrase came from a badge that Kate Moss was wearing in one of the earliest, most beautiful photographs that Corinne and Melanie Ward created for The Face magazine. The book itself is called May The Circle Remain Unbroken which is a song that Corinne loved by The 13th Floor Elevators, a psychedelic rock band from Austin, Texas in the 1960s that she was very inspired by. The song also has American church hymnal roots and it has to do with “a better place a’waitin, in the sky, Lord in the sky.” So, the words have to do with how we as people deal with death and also for all of us as friends and collaborators of Corinne’s, a circle of friends who have very deep-rooted memories of experiences with her.

How did you meet Corinne?

I was working as the publicist for a rock band called Pusherman who were signed to Sony Records and to Marcus Russell, who manages Oasis. A meeting was made for me to go to Corinne’s flat in Soho to talk about planning and producing a press photography shoot for the band. I knew exactly who Corinne Day was from all of the excitement about her distinctive, documentary style of photography and for the Kate Moss photographs – cover stories for The Face and Vogue.

I can still remember what I was wearing that day. I can still remember going up the stairs to her flat and how I was nervous but got the guts up to just go and meet her. She was so calm and welcoming, I think she could tell I was a little lost for words.

I met her boyfriend Mark as well who was a successful model who had gone on to become a well known video director. None of it seemed normal to me. We did a number of shoots together with the band. In studios, on location, on tour, Mark directed a really good video and we all understood the way each other worked, with Tara St. Hill styling all of the shoots and Paul Drummond creating all of the sets.

I can still remember what I was wearing that day. I can still remember going up the stairs to her flat and how I was nervous but got the guts up to just go and meet her. She was so calm and welcoming, I think she could tell I was a little lost for words.

Susie Babchick

What London was like in the late 80s and 90s?

It was like a very happy lunatic asylum. Inhibitions went out the window. There was a feeling of liberation and integration and a colourful, British eccentricity. The music was very important to most people and for young people, it was also not a very materialistic time. It was a very creative, comical, poetic time.

Can you describe the infamous Brewer Street flat?

It’s in a small, original Art Deco building in Soho. It had two bedrooms at first and there was often someone staying with Corinne and Mark in the small guest room. The front room and kitchen were very basic at first too. Corinne had some interesting finds on display, like a beautifully crushed beer can, a huge branch of driftwood, the cool patterned orange sofa that looks so incredible. I still can’t get enough of seeing that sofa in her photographs.

In the book you’ll see the big, square modern, leather armchairs that are gaffer taped together all over. They looked incredible and were super comfortable. I’m sure I fell asleep in one of those more than once watching movies at their place. In time, Mark and Corinne turned the guest room into a very sleek, modernist kitchen with light coming in through the ceiling and the original kitchen was removed and opened up to make a larger front room. The patterned, orange sofa got sawed in half and moved out through the window (on the third floor). The leather chairs went and then the big, lush, comfortable modern sofas came and the walls all painted white with white blinds. It was done very beautifully and it was a sign to me of Corinne becoming more of a grown-up woman and less of the rebel.

“London in the 1990s was like a very happy lunatic asylum. Inhibitions went out the window. There was a feeling of liberation and integration and a colourful, British eccentricity.”

Susie Babchick

Why do you think it’s important to have a definitive, printed book of Corinne’s work?

The definitive book of Corinne’s work has not been made yet. This book is a slice of time from the 1990’s which shows Corinne’s experimentation with photographing her friends and the young models she worked with regularly in a crossover of documentary and fashion.

What was she like?

Corinne was born beautiful and talented. She had a tough upbringing which she referred to often. She was a badass and loved anything rebellious. She had a strong sense of justice and was more stubborn than anyone I’ve ever met. I actually learned a lot from her when it comes to not backing down when you believe in something. She was also unpredictable which is what made her work so fresh and she had a truly wicked sense of humour. Along with her great friends, Neil Moodie and Karl Plewka – it was non-stop bitchy, funny fun.

  • 2

    Corinne Day:

What was the highlight of being Corinne’s agent?

The adventures.

It seems like the book was a perfect chance for the old gang (you, Tara, Mark etc.) to get back together – is this true?

Yes. When the last exhibition went up at Gimpel Fils I started crying a little bit as I thought Corinne was going to walk in.

She’s inspired countless photographers, I see her work in almost everything that gets sent in to It’s Nice That. Do you think anyone will ever be able to replicate her talent?

I agree with you about that. I see her influence in so much newer photography work. I don’t see many of them really coming close. I recently started working with a photographer named Marlene Marino whose work I see as along the lines of Corinne’s. I think that if Corinne had the chance to see Marlene’s work, she would have liked it. They work similarly in the way they are inspired by the environment around them.

“She was a badass and loved anything rebellious. She had a strong sense of justice and was more stubborn than anyone I’ve ever met. I actually learned a lot from her when it comes to not backing down when you believe in something.”

Susie Babchick

What’s your personal favourite part of the book?

Rosemary Ferguson.

When you first set out to help with the book, what message were you keen to get across about Corinne’s work?

No message at all. Just a visual illustration of the times as Corinne saw them.

Do you have a favourite photo of Corinne’s?

George, Sunset from a series called England’s Dreaming.

Her photography is called the “visual equivalent to music,” especially when put alongside the grunge era. How much do you agree with that?

I do agree. Corinne’s photography was laced with music at all times. Corinne loved music with her heart and soul. There is music that will always remind me of her: Nick Drake, Patti Smith, Elliott Smith, Alexander “Skip” Spence. She also loved, Rock On by David Essex which was from an earlier era but an outstanding song through the decades. That song went on when Corinne was in the mood to turn the music up loud.

  • 3

    Corinne Day: England’s Dreaming

  • 5

    Corinne Day: Untitled

  • 6

    Corinne Day: Untitled

  • 8

    Corinne Day: Untitled

  • 9

    Corinne Day: Untitled

  • 7

    Corinne Day: Untitled

  • 12

    Corinne Day: Untitled

  • 13

    Corinne Day: Untitled

  • 14

    Corinne Day: Untitled

Ls-300

Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She is also a regular guest and sometime host on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Behind The Scenes View Archive

  1. Main

    London-based brand Heresy presented its new collection this week in the guise of its Autumn Winter 2014 lookbook. Entitled Forming, the collection is a quiet amalgamation of illustration and traditional workwear, combining illustrated elements and hand-drawn type with carefully crafted structural staples made from loop-back jersey and felted wool.

  2. Main

    Photographer John Kilar was born in Istanbul, grew up in California and then settled in Los Angeles, for a bit. He now lives a nomadic life, traveling round with his point-and-shoot camera documenting the world as he sees it with an honesty and pathos and humour which strikes us to the very core. He also has a great way of talking about art and life which is inspiring without being patronising or cheesy; it’s just him doing what he does and calling it as he sees it. Particularly enamoured by his pictures of festivals, we tracked him down in Texas to ask him a few questions…

  3. Sblist

    For his new single New Dorp. New York featuring Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, SBTRKT released his first animated music video yesterday; a smoky, surreal trip to New York featuring one swaggering, mask-wearing dog. It’s a weird and unsettling trip as we follow this creature stalking through a city that may or may not be New York, and it marks an interesting new visual direction for the artist. We caught up with SBTRKT, director Fons Schiedon and his creative collaborator A Hidden Place.

  4. Main

    It can’t be every day that a UK studio gets approached by a leading Russian bank after a brand identity for their new app. So when we heard that NB Studio have created Zhuck, a banking app with a brilliantly satirical edge – an app which actually jeers at the user, goading them into working a bit harder, like a personal trainer who helps you gain pennies instead of losing pounds – we had to learn more. Nick Finney, creative director, answers my questions and reassures me that no smart-phones were harmed in the making of this app.

  5. Pepelist09

    Bronia Stewart first caught everyone’s attention back in 2013 with her project Babe Station. With this gritty series taken behind the scenes at an adult television channel the LCC graduate dove into salacious subject matter showing maturity, confidence and creativity beyond her tender years. Where could she and her camera possibly venture next?

  6. List2

    Stumbling across the portfolio of photographer Sam Bush, you’ll immediately be struck by the diversity of his work. His singles all demonstrate a refined aesthetic and a coherent style of lifestyle photography that’s incredibly on point. Then there’s the energetic chaos of his gig photos, featuring sweaty, heavily-tattoed guys and girls kicking the crap out of each other in the mosh pit. And then you stumble across a large series on riots – it’s a mixed bag, but a mixed bag of delicious treats.

  7. Main

    Normally we have to scrabble about, beg, or leave hampers on doorsteps of famous photographers in order to interview them. By some divine miracle, Creative Director at Sony Music and absolutely legendary music photographer Josh Cheuse came knocking on our door. Would we mind posting about his work in the lead-up to his solo show in New York? Certainly not. Could we ask him some questions about his spectacular firework of a life hopping across the pond and back again to photograph some of the world’s most famous musicians? Sure.

  8. Lalistallenby

    Several years ago, Luke Archer came across an antique camera in his mum’s shed. It was in amongst heaps of equipment from his grandfather’s studio, who was also a photographer, and originally belonged to Alexander Bassano, a Victorian society photographer. Out of this discovery, Inheritance was born; a project about the hereditary peers whose ancestors were pictured by Bassano but also about the portraitist tradition itself.

  9. List

    “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” is a line famously attributed to Picasso. There is some disagreement about whether the big man did utter these words, but it has endured as a truism; influence and inspiration flowing from one artist to another play a major part in the development of art history.

  10. List

    20 years ago in 1994, little known designer Eike König set up his “graphic design playground” Hort, creating a community in the centre of Berlin where creatives could collaborate on ideas and client briefs side by side. Nowadays, the playground is slightly bigger, undertaking work for Nike, The New York Times and Walt Disney among others, but the underlying emphasis on collaboration and experimentation remains exactly the same.

  11. Main10

    Some may think it’s easy to shoot Kate Moss. People have been doing it for years, but to my knowledge no one has ever done it poorly. Today we can say for sure that a major element of shooting Kate with real oomph is having a sheer passion for the model – as Alister Mackie explains in this interview. The creative director describes her energy as “buzzing” and speaks warmly of their time spent in her back garden as she lay in the grass for this AnOther Magazine cover shoot with the tone of someone who’s just coming down from a transcendental experience. What’s really great here is how someone like Alister, whose career is already packed full of things we proles can only dream of, can speak of a fashion shoot with such pure, palpable excitement.

  12. Listrop.8991_4

    New York-based visual artist Roxy Paine has achieved the mind-boggling feat of recreating an entire airport security checkpoint out of wood. This follows on from the mysteriously named Machine of Indeterminacy and Scrutiny and takes his maple masterpieces to a new degree of complexity. Sadly, he declined to tell me just how many trees went into the making of Checkpoint, which is part of his solo exhibition Denuded Lens at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, but he has answered a few more sensible questions about just how he creates his crazily intricate works which explore “the discourse of the diorama.”

  13. Main

    It’s one thing to bring up the issue of the gender gap in the technology industry in casual conversation, but it’s quite another to do anything about it. Andy Gonzales and Sophie Houser are high school students in NYC who met at a summer camp called Girls Who Code, and decided to use their opportunity there for the greater good, generating discussion around the taboo subject of periods and the distinct lack of women in the tech industries, and learning to code at the same time.