Jamie Morgan Killer Portraits features some of the iconic photographer’s most striking images and opens today in Paris
As one of the founding members of the Buffalo movement of the 1980s, it’s pretty fair to say that photographer Jamie Morgan shaped the fashion image, and fashion in general, as we know it. Alongside Ray Petri, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Neneh Cherry, and a very young Naomi Campbell, Morgan and the radical collective are behind some of the most enduring shoots of the era, as they blazed a trail for those that came after them: take a look through any fashion magazine in 2019 and it’s likely their influence will still reverberate somewhere between its pages.
Morgan’s introduction into photography was through a teenage summer job at the Magnum photo agency in Paris, where he filed negatives for the likes of Cartier Bresson and Don McMullen. “I spent my days matching negatives to the contact sheets,” he explains. “Looking at such amazing images was like discovering treasure, and I was hooked immediately, totally captured by photography. But it was a while before I felt the same enthusiasm for my own work.”
Fast-forward a few years, and Morgan was in London, where he regularly shot street photos of the capital’s wildly fabulous Club Kids: the likes of Boy George, Marilyn, and Steve Strange among them. It was around this time that the photographer met legendary stylist Ray Petri and started to develop his style within the realm of fashion. “What we were doing was very experimental, alive, it wasn’t contrived,” he says of the collective’s beginnings. “Back then, ‘the fashion photography industry was in its infancy, and a lot of the time it felt like we were beating a path through an unknown jungle with a machete. We had no idea we were creating a fashion legacy. We were just very in-tune with what we liked.”
“What we were doing was very experimental, alive, it wasn’t contrived. We had no idea we were creating a fashion legacy. We were just very in-tune with what we liked” – Jamie Morgan
Now, Morgan’s work – or some of it at least – is the subject of a new exhibition at Le Salon in Paris, which opens tonight. Having shot the cover of the new Christine and the Queens album, he was approached by a member of her creative team who was keen to curate a show featuring his work. To Morgan, it made sense to agree: “My work’s always been tied to music and its cultural references, the most obvious being Neneh’s Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance”, which I co-wrote.”
Among the photographs on show are ones dug deep from his archive, as shot during his time working with Ray Petri and Barry Kamen (yes, the iconic ‘Killer’ shot that featured on the cover of The Face is included), as well as more recent imagery, on which he collaborated with Ib Kamara for Dazed.
With the core themes of the show centred around diversity, gender, and identity – all issues which underpin much of his work – here, Morgan talks us through a selection of the works on show at Le Salon. ”We always played with identity and gender fluidity,” the photographer explains. “Whether it was sexy boys in skirts or tough girls in suits, fluidity was very normal to us. The images in the exhibition show the continuity of these themes, and how they’re as relevant now as ever. There’s always been diversity, it’s just that now it’s allowed to shine. Thank God the world finally caught up!”
BLACK POWER (2010)
“This shot was a tribute to the Black Power movement in the USA from the 1960s. The Black Power guys were so stylish and effortlessly cool. At the same time they were fierce warriors fighting for the rights and survival of their people, enslaved by white America and then forced into the corners of society. These guys were never going to accept that, and they were prepared to go to war to make the social change, and look amazing while doing its! You have to have great respect for that courage, and to do it with such style!”
GRACE WALES BONNER SS17 COLLECTION (2016)
“This series was for Arena Homme+, shooting the collection of the new British ‘star’ designer Grace Wales Bonner. Here references are deeply cultural and, on some level, you might say Grace is a Buffalo-inspired designer, who has taken the look to whole new level: taking the street style and turning it into classic, luxury tailoring and beautifully made clothes. She has moved well beyond that now, but this collaboration touched on our similar aesthetics.”
‘‘This image is a diptych alongside the Indian. We wanted to play with stereotypes. The all-American white cowboy, but make him black. They had black cowboys back in the day but as per usual they were whitewashed out of history. We were also playing with the gay stereotype of the cowboy. We wanted him to be really sexy and tough but in a cool way. We always wanted our images to appeal to both gay and straight men.”
“In this image, we were paying respect to Native American Indians. We loved how majestic the Indians were. We wanted an image that showed strength and dignity. The Indians were a proud and powerful people, destroyed by the greed of the white man. The male American Indian Warriors were the ones who wore the most extravagant outfits, not the woman. The headdress was like the plume of a giant ornate bird. We loved how the men looked, so beautiful and proud and fearless. That’s how we wanted to look! We always associated Buffalo with the underdogs.”
THE OTHER PARIS, RUE DE REGARD (2016)
“This shoot is playing on the ‘Other Side’ of Paris style. The styling comes from the African street vendors selling fake luxury products like Hermés silk headscarves. Not the real expensive ones for rich white ladies, but the cheap fakes sold on the streets. Ib took a lot of the styling inspiration from the street seller, and we created our own street versions of the classic Parisian style. The casting is a mix between local models and street casting, shot in the Chateau Rouge area of Paris.”
Jamie Morgan Killer Portraits is open from today from 6pm-9pm and on January 16 & 17 from 6pm-8pm at Le Salon – 10 rue de la Paix, 75002, Paris.