For lovers of creative culture, it is our perpetual curse to believe that the age which preceded us was oh so much more. That there were more wild parties; more clandestine affairs; more good ideas; more means by which to execute the good ideas. For the most part, we accept that the zeitgeist is always just out of arm’s reach and we continue to pursue it anyway. Some golden eras, however, will never dull – and that which cloaked London in the early 1990s, during which time then-hairstylist, soon-to-be photographer Drew Jarrett was living in west London with Glen Luchford and Mario Sorrenti, working with Corinne Day and Melanie Ward, shooting Kate Moss on the beach, or living in New York’s Gramercy Park hotel for weeks on end… That is one of them.
“Memories, wow, so many,” Jarrett tells AnOther. It was, he says, a different time in the world of magazines: “Basically, it was just turn up for jobs and do what you felt. From my experience, magazines were leaving you to do whatever you wanted – there was so much creative freedom, with few restrictions.” This free and easy approach took Jarrett around the world to create images, at times employing a less than orthodox approach – “for example, laying on the beaches of San Blas Islands in Panama sunbathing, while the client was wondering when we would shoot” – but always coming up with the goods. And having some good times, too. “Being in Berlin for Joop with Mario, Glen, Stella Tennant, Emma Balfour, Michele Hicks, Ashley, Shawn, Steve Sutton and Kay Montana was a special shoot, feeling just like a big party all together and doing really cool work.”
This era is captured to dynamic, raw effect in Jarrett’s new photo book 1994, published this week by IDEA. The book is a culmination of the photographs he took while working on shoots like the aforementioned, with some of the lead creative figures of both that day and this one. It also sees the birth of photography as a creative outlet for Jarrett, who at that time was still working as a hairstylist. “The transition from hair to pictures was a natural thing for me,” he says. “I had gotten to the top of my profession in hair, doing great stuff, and got bored. I just felt that it wasn’t a creative challenge any more for me, and I started to take pictures of my family, kids and friends, and the models and crew I was working with who were also very close.”
This uninhibited way of working – neither to briefs or to commissions, but just for fun – was crucial in developing his style as it exists today. The book reads more like a collaged personal journal than a precisely accomplished photographic endeavour, because that’s more or less what it was; it contains pictures of family and friends, collaborators, people on the streets in places he was visiting. “I was more inspired by looking for moments and scenes worth photographing, experimenting with light and compositions as I travelled around the world with my friends, working and having a great time. When the film was processed I’d arrange the images I was most attracted to that were a little off and rough, or imprecise, thus quickly establishing my more emotional approach and style.” He made the book in its first iteration in 1993, and Mario tagged the cover with Jarrett’s name in graffiti in 1994, giving it its title.
At the time, Jarrett continues, people didn’t fully get it. Or him, for that matter – these photomontages sat at odds with the more composed photographs of the time. Not until some 23 years later, when he was working with designer Dean Langley to create book Guinevere, did reprinting it become an option, and IDEA the driving force behind doing so.
Almost a quarter century later, how does he feel about 1994 now that it’s finally in the world and ready to be shared? “So, so happy,” he replies, simply. “I have these incredible memories of special people I met reminding me of the amazing, dope time with all. I continued to make books of all my personal projects, since this first book, but of course the 90s were powerful, raw, creative, honest, uninhibited good times.” A golden era indeed.
Drew Jarrett, 1994, is out October 3, 2017, published by IDEA. Book launch and signing on October 2, 2017, 6-8pm at Comme des Garçons Trading Museum Paris.