20 Feb 2011

Fashionably Late

  In 1998 I was commissioned to photograph a group of upcoming British designers. I was assigned a stylist for the job by the name of Isabella Blow. The plumage jetting from her head suggested she was an endangered species with a flair for the extraordinary. We instantly warmed to one another, we made each other giggle. I hadn’t a clue who this creature was, Issy was a legend in the world of fashion - a place foreign to me. I was a neutral, I knew no one from her circles so she felt able to confess and confide in me. We’d meet in low-lit cafes off Piccadilly and she’d tell me of the snubbing she received from the photographers, models and designers she selflessly promoted and mentored. She once called me excitedly to say she’d named me in an an interview as the photographer to watch out for- typical Issy.
 Issy suffered from depression and the treatment she received from her contemporaries and muses compounded the misery. Our clandestine confessionals lasted until I left London for Scotland. I was shocked, but not surprised, to hear in 2007 that she had taken her own life. The method she chose to end it was tragic - weed-killer. Exiting her poisonous world in such a dramatic manner seems prophetic in retrospect.
 Four years after her death and the carrion are descending. Publications, documentaries and a film of her life are appearing from the coffin's woodwork. Photographers and designers who took advantage of her unrequited generosity are now reaping the post mortem benefits of her influence. 

Isabella was like the feathers in her hats- fragile and exotic. The latter-day obitchuaries will, I'm sure, tell their own tales.