From Vogue’s cover of green jelly, to Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut album – with a host of celebrities including Grace Jones, Cary Grant, David Bowie, and Jerry Hall in between – photographer and filmmaker Willie Christie has captured it all. Now, his eclectic body of work has been gathered together for the first time, with the publication of new photography book Willie Christie: a very distinctive style: Then & Now by ACC Art Books, making for a vibrant retrospective.
‘I had wanted to do a book for some years,’ Christie tells us. ‘I scanned down all my images about 15 years ago and only then did I see a theme running through. A look where, although there were other influences, it was my work. I saw that all my images had their own individuality. I was asked initially whether I wanted to do a book “for Christmas” or to make some bigger statement. I had begun to think by then, that my work was of some interest within the world of fashion. And perhaps even outside of it. Time is a great observer. A friend mentioned that my work then, was relevant now. And that my work now (limited though it was) was also relevant now. So, the title was born. And so was the book.’
Willie Christie book: ‘Every image has its own life’
Images from the mid-1970s join more recent work in the tome. ‘Although there is a style, every image is lit, composed, and according to how I saw it at that time,’ Christie adds. ‘Not because “that is what I did”. A while ago I looked through a photographer’s book and every picture was the same. The same technique. In a house on location, in the same house and in a different room, then another room all around the house. Yet everything looked the same. No early morning. Later afternoon or at night. Page after page of the same light. The same tricks. I realised that was not the way to go. Or at least not the way I wanted to go. Every image has its own life. Its own secrets.’
Christie’s images spotlight a particular moment of time, eschewing sentimentality for a cinematic portrayal of the 1970s and early 1980s. ‘I hope readers discover the feel, look, clothes and style of [the era]. The celebrities of then. I hope they will perhaps find images that they know and like, which they didn’t realise I had taken. I hope that they will find images they have never seen before that will evoke a distant memory particular to them. That they will find something in the “personality” of a subject, an empathy with a landscape. That they will feel something. But in the end, I just hope that they like my work and that they like the book. That the few stories from behind the shoots will be interesting and offer a glimpse into life as it was then.’
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Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.
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