In the autumn of 1993, celebrated fashion photographer Arthur Elgort accompanied stylist Grace Coddington and supermodel Linda Evangelista down the Li River in Guangxi, China, for a five-day shoot in mountainous terrain. An acrobat was hired to stand on a local Chinese guide’s makeshift raft next to the then 28-year-old Evangelista, a panoramic shot Elgort envisioned to include the sweeping Karst mountains. But as Elgort explains to us, his plan was foiled.
“We wanted to show the mountains in China because they are spectacular. It was a special image because we had a guy there who was kind of an acrobat, but he couldn’t do it – he couldn’t stand up on the raft. Grace (Coddington) was devastated when she found out that standing up on this boat couldn’t be done. Linda was getting dressed and Grace was going, ‘What am I going to do? This picture is so important to me. We need to take it.’ Linda said, ‘Don’t worry Grace, as long as you get me a double page, I’m going to do it.’ The acrobat said it couldn’t be done because she’d fall in the water – he said, ‘You know it’s like a tightrope?’ If you look at the picture, the raft is not very wide.
Linda said, ‘I can do that easy, if it’s a double page. I won’t do it if it’s a single page.’ So we said, ‘Okay, Linda, it’s a double page – we promise you.’ Linda did it easily and everybody was like, ‘How did you do that, Linda?’ She said, ‘With a double page you can do anything!’ I thought that was so funny.
Linda said, ‘I can do that easy, if it’s a double page. I won’t do it if it’s a single page.’ So we said, ‘Okay, Linda, it’s a double page – we promise you.’
Linda is a great model, we were lucky to have her. She had just got out of the hospital because she had a collapsed lung, but she said, ‘I want to shoot. I’ll feel good, don’t worry.’ Linda is just that kind of girl – when she wants something to get a good picture, she’ll do it. That’s why I like her so much.
I discovered a lot of the supermodels, so they were very nice to me. When I shot Linda the first time in Paris, she had long hair and she was not famous at all. Then she cut her hair off and became a star. She was a good model, but I had her first. You know, when you have them first they’re very nice to you because they remember you. You gave them a break.”