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Courtesy of Guzman

The photo duo that lensed the ice cold 90s, Courtney Love and Janet Jackson

Guzman look back at an extraordinary archive of work that subverted traditional images of femininity and womanhood with the most revered women in music

On his first day at the studio in 1983, Constance Hansen remembers asking Russell Peacock to clean the stove. She laughs at the reversal of gender roles and then adds, “It was for a photo shoot. I remember asking Russell what photographers he liked and what he wanted to do and he started talking about riding his bicycle through Europe for six months and sculpture. Meanwhile I was in full commercial mode, working around the clock.”

A bustling still life photographer, Hansen’s posh client roster included Bergdorf Goodman, Bonwit Teller, Lord & Taylor, and Balducci’s – but things began to change when Peacock began collaborating with her. Paging through the luxurious art book style catalogues for Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons, inspiration struck. “We thought fashion photography looked like fun, not knowing how difficult it was,” Peacock says.

After business hours ended, they opened studio to the downtown scene, inviting club icons like Dianne Brill and Marilyn for portraits, styling them in clothes by emerging designers like Marc Jacobs and Isabel Toledo, and publishing in the Village Voice, aRude, Taxi, and Interview. To establish a distinct identity, they adopted the name Guzman.

“There were no doubles in photography at that time and everyone was against it except Paula Greif,” Hansen says. As creative director at Barney’s, Greif got Guzman its first big music gig – shooting the cover of Rockbird, Debbie Harry’s 1986 solo album. “We worked with Stephen Sprouse, Andy Warhol, and Linda Mason. We were trying not to act blown away but we were,” Hansen says.

By 1990, Guzman had opened a 3,000 square foot studio on 31st Street in Manhattan. They also secured a Los Angeles photo agent, who get them gigs in the music industry, bringing in an extraordinary line up of artists including Sting, the Neville Brothers, Digable Planets, Luther Vandross, and Dru Hill. 

“It was a golden era,” Hansen says. “Someone would call us up to do whatever we wanted.”

And so they did, creating an archive of attitude that captures the spirit of the 90s. Liberated from the hyper manufactured images of glamour that defined the 1980s, Guzman introduced a daring style that drew notice among a new generation of women artists. Bold, fearless, and free, women of the 90s like Janet Jackson, Total, SWV, En Vogue, and Hole defined their identity, sexuality, and gender of their own terms.

“Looking back, album covers are so iconic, but in that era you were so used to it,” Peacock says. “You don’t think about the importance of that large image on everyone’s shelves. I don’t know id we fully appreciate being that part of the zeitgeist.”

Hansen agrees. “We were so in the moment. Everything we did is an accumulation. While we were doing it, it was just in bits and pieces, our experiences. It was just coming at us and we were playing.” Here, Guzman looks back at its extraordinary archive of work that expanded, subverted, and transcended traditional images of the femininity and womanhood.