Heroine chic

Corinne Day’s grittily ethereal images at Gimpel Fils

Photographer Corinne Day, who died from a brain tumour in 2010, aged 48, made her mark in the 1990s with two influential bodies of work in a documentary-realist style. To start with, there were her personal photographs of friends in sparsely furnished flats, their waif-like, youthful frames spawning the controversial term “heroin chic”. Now some of these, dating from 1987 to 1996, are to go on show for the first time at the exhibition May the Circle Remain Unbroken at London gallery Gimpel Fils, while an eponymous book edited by her husband Mark Szaszy will be published by Aron Morel on the show’s start date, Wednesday October 16.

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Day’s other work – fashion photography – was similarly gritty. A 1993 shoot for Vogue portraying a dishevelled Kate Moss in unsightly tan tights provoked an outcry, yet Day’s raw aesthetic captured the early 1990s zeitgeist. It echoed the stripped-down sound of grunge music, novels such as Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, and provided a refreshing antidote to the overblown glamour of 1980s fashion shoots.

Priced at £2,160 each, the show’s images highlight a hallmark of Day’s work – apparently artless, asymmetric, diagonal compositions. Witness George by the Road at Night (first picture), George on Tube (second picture) and Georgina Cooper and Cat (third picture). The spindly line of an electric flex in the latter typifies the fragile feel of Day’s work. In contrast, her pictures of people in the countryside, such as Rose with Yellow Flowers (fourth picture), seem carefree.

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“Corinne showed the world as she saw it – girls with grubby feet and faces that, scrunched up with laughter, weren’t conventionally beautiful,” recalls Tara St Hill, a fashion stylist and former friend and subject of Day’s. In fact, her pictures exude a vulnerability that has an added poignancy in view of her too-young death. Yet Day’s appeal endures today, as this exhibition demonstrates.

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