The singer-songwriter Sky Ferreira, now 22, recalls the first time she met Hedi Slimane. She was eighteen and still largely unknown; he had yet to assume his current mantle as creative director of Saint Laurent but was taking a break from designing and pursuing his lifelong interest in photography. “It was summer in New York City,” Ferreira says, “and I stopped by to see a friend who was working on a shoot with him. It was really hot and disgusting outside; I wasn’t wearing any makeup, and I was dressed like a slob. But he shot a few pictures of me right then—and they are among the best anyone has ever taken.”
Slimane has photographed her repeatedly since—for her album artwork, for his online Rock Diary, and at Saint Laurent. (The multitalented, iconoclastic designer casts, styles, and shoots all the house’s advertising.) The shoots are “pretty intimate,” Ferreira says. “I can look like myself and be myself, as opposed to having the clothes wear me.”
The picture above is included in “Sonic,” an exhibition (accompanied by a publication with the same title) opening in September at the Fondation Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, culled from some fifteen years of Slimane’s black-and-white photographs of rock musicians. His subjects range from the grizzled visages of Keith Richards and Lou Reed to baby-faced L.A. indie art-rockers such as Ariel Pink and Christopher Owens to the dark, gothic beauty of tattooed rock princess Frances Bean Cobain.
“I’ve always felt comfortable around musicians,” the 46-year-old Parisian, now based in Los Angeles, wrote in an email interview. “Photographing them is my way of keeping a diary or a chronicle of my time.” As a teenager he was intrigued by Russian Constructivist photographers such as Alexander Rodchenko; in his late 20s he collaborated with Richard Avedon, a great friend and mentor.
Though as a photographer Slimane is best known for capturing young rebels on the cusp of adulthood, his striking portraits of rock’s survivors reveal “the sense of freedom, sometimes the recklessness, that age gives you,” he writes. “It’s the same impression of freedom I get from youth or ‘beginners.’ There is no time for lies or posturing anymore. Death is no longer an abstraction, and fragility becomes the real subject.”
Hedi Slimane’s “Sonic” opens on September 18 at the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent where it will be on view until January 11, 2015; fondation-pb-ysl.net.
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