Thursday, August 9, 2007
Shooting Kinski #9: Richard Avedon
"Avedon laughingly described another of his triumphs with model and beast: his famous 1981 Vogue portrait of actress Nastassja Kinski entwined with a boa constrictor. It was Kinski's idea to create a kind of Eve and serpent tableau, and a snake wrangler was duly hired to bring one of his (tame) charges to the shoot.
But one does not direct a boa constrictor. For all of the sensuous glamor of the pose, Avedon said during a PBS interview, "Nastassja spent two hours on a cement floor naked."
"They anchored the snake around her ankles," Avedon said, clearly enjoying the recollection, then waited to see what the critter would do. Shot after shot did not work. Then finally, after many takes, the boa undulated across Kinski's hip and
slowly made its way toward her head.
"Natassja, this is it," Avedon said in a hoarse whisper, "Just try to relax!"
Seconds later the snake came to within inches of the actress' ear, then almost languorously extended its fangs, as if in a kiss.
Another classic; another Avedon moment.
"She [Kinski] rose to the occasion," Avedon exulted, grinning, "the snake rose to the occasion. I rose to the occasion" – all in a moment that would have been impossible to plan."
-Frank Van Riper, Washington Post interviewing Avedon-
Anyone who was around in the eighties will surely remember the famous shot of Kinski and The Serpent taken by Richard Avedon. The photo, taken while Kinski was shooting CAT PEOPLE, first appeared in a 1981 issue of Vogue magazine and was quickly made into one of the best selling posters of all time. The image appeared everywhere throughout the decade and it remains one of the most iconic shots of the period.
The late Avedon was one of America's great photographers and anyone interested in his remarkable career should check out his official site at http://www.richardavedon.com/
While the photo of Nastassja and the snake is the most famous of their collaborations I am even fonder of the striking series of shots Avedon took of her for Rolling Stone in 1982. These are some of loveliest photos of Nastassja ever taken and among the most provocative the once great Rolling Stone ever published.
A few years back Nastassja's lovely and talented daughter Sonja Kinski recreated her mother's most famous shoot for a Photo magazine spread. The full article can be found at the great Nastassja Kinski JP site that is linked to the right. I am including one scan below from it along with two black and white shots of Nastassja from that Rolling Stone session.