Art & Photography / The Story Behind The Image

Photographs of Kate Bush Dancing, Jumping and Singing

Photographer Guido Harari reveals the stories behind his favourite images of the British talent in celebration of his captivating new photobook, The Kate Inside

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Guido Harari x Kate Bush
Photography by Guido Harari

“I was born in the 1950s, when rock'n'roll exploded,” says veteran music photographer Guido Harari on the phone from his gallery in Alba, Piedmont. “And by the 1960s, with the arrival of the Beatles and the Stones, I was completely captivated.” Add to the equation a flare for photography, and Harari had soon settled on his chosen career. “I thought, I have these two loves, why don’t I combine them? I didn’t want to just be a fan; I wanted to meet these people and find out more about them, so I decided to do that through the camera.” He duly spent hours poring over copies of Rolling Stone Magazine and NME and then set out to approach music magazines himself. Before long his artful eye and ability to put his subjects at ease found him collaborating with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Frank Zappa and legendary American promoter Phil Graham. “It snowballed easily because in those days it was much easier get access [to musicians],” he says modestly.

At the heart of Harari’s practice is his belief in establishing a close relationship with his subject. “I’m not trying to impose whatever style I think I have onto them,” he explains emphatically. “I’m trying to discover something about the subject that even they may not be aware of. When you shoot a celebrity you already have in your mind tons of pictures that you’ve seen of them – on albums, in magazines and books – and you have to work out where to go next, where you can take them that keeps them surprised and entertained.” It was this unique approach that captured the attention of inimitable British music icon Kate Bush, whom Harari met in 1982, going on to work with her frequently over the next ten years, taking all the press shots for such landmark albums as Hounds Of Love, The Sensual World and The Red Shoes.

Harari is one of the very few photographers to have gained Bush’s trust (aside from her brother John Carder Bush) and his images offer extraordinary insight into the musician’s idiosyncratic practice, showing her completely uninhibited and unconstrained before his lens. “I love to work with Guido,” Bush once said. “He makes you feel special without even saying anything. I think of him as an artist as well as a photographer; he is very creative and inventive.” Now, 23 years after their final shoot together, during the making of Bush’s film The Line, The Cross and The Curve, Harari has compiled an extensive tome filled with more than 300 images of the captivating star, alongside numerous outtakes, contact sheets, test Polaroids and handwritten notes by Bush herself, and a foreword by Lindsay Kemp. Here, in celebration of the book’s release and a coinciding London exhibition, both titled The Kate Inside, the photographer talks us through five of his favourite images, sharing the brilliant stories behind them.

“This is from my first shoot with Kate in 1982. It was during the TV promotion of The Dreaming in Italy, in a town called Riva del Garda. At the time I had just completed a photo book with Lindsay Kemp, who of course had been a mentor to Kate and to Bowie. I first shot him for a magazine and then the idea of a book came up, so I toured Italy with him for about three years. When I met Kate, the book had just been finished (it would be published a few months later) and I had a draft. Also one of the two dancers with her – the one on the right, Douglas McNicol – was one of Lindsay’s dancers, so with the draft and Douglas on hand, it was the best introduction I could have had to Kate!

After the TV programme, she agreed to have some portraits taken and the three of them came back to the hotel, wearing their stage outfits and make-up and everything. They improvised a short performance in front of the camera, which to me was quite natural because I was used to photographing Lindsay, and everything was possible with him: no restrictions, no censorship. So I almost took it for granted that Kate would do the same, and she did [laughs]. She loved the pictures and then three years later she called me up one day and asked me to shoot her official photos for Hounds of Love. So that’s how the collaboration started and it lasted about ten years, up until the film in ’93.”

“All the other photos come from the film, The Line, The Cross and The Curve in 1993. The film was shot in two weeks, but I was only on set for the second one because I had another commitment. Kate had said to me, ‘I would like you to come and do what you did with Lindsay – fly-on-the-wall reportage. Capture everything, no restrictions!’ So I had full access. The film, if you’ve seen it, is a series of videos for some of the songs from her record and they’re linked by some dialogue scenes.

Here, she was rehearsing for Rubberband Girl and she was having the time of her life – if you look at some of the other pictures in the sequence, you can see her laughing, cracking up, she’s having lots of fun. One of these images ended up as the cover of the Rubberband Girl single, but this one, as with most of the images from the shoot, has never been seen before because, after this, Kate basically retired for 12 years. She had family problems – her mother died and she broke up with her boyfriend and met another guy, had a son – and so she just stopped and when she came back with the Ariel album, she was probably focused on her future and this was her past. So I thought after 20 odd years it would be nice to revisit it.”

“This shot of Kate reaching out to Lindsay was part of the song that was Lily, I think. They were on a platform in this huge rehearsal room and they had banners flying all over the place. Lindsay looks like a madman! Having the two of them together was really a treat for me, after all those years since she first fell in love with my book – everything had turned full circle and it was fantastic.

Kate and Lindsay’s dynamic was very natural: it was like they had seen each other the day before. Everything always went incredibly smoothly between Kate and the people she worked with; there was no tension. It was almost like this telepathic process going on – whether it was with Lindsay, me or the director of photography, the people in the crew.”

“This was a rehearsal for the song The Red Shoes. Kate was obsessed with rehearsing everything so that she could perform to the best of her ability. Given that she had stopped performing live in 1979, being on the set in ’93 was the closest I could get to being on tour with her – seeing her perform and rehearse. It was a really a unique opportunity to have a different approach, to shoot candid backstage shots as opposed to the studio portraits that I had taken in the past.”

“That was taken during The Red Shoes video. I could shoot very close to Kate at any time. Of course I had to be careful during the actual filming, but while she rehearsed it was just me with a wide angle lens. When I started designing the book, I thought that these two pictures would fit very well together – that instead of making two spreads, I could have them on the same double spread and add action to the images. I like the shape of body, the way she sways, and how the two poses mirror each other. I think it works very well.”

The Kate Inside limited edition book is available now. The exhibition is at Art Bermondsey Project Space from September 13 – 30, 2016.

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