Tara by Tara St Hill is the result of a collaboration between the stylist, the photographer Zoë Law and writer Shonagh Marshall
Some of the most intimate moments of Tara St Hill’s youth were captured on camera. For the stylist – whose work has been featured in i-D, Interview, Re-Edition, SSAW and 10 Magazine, among others, and who has shot with photographers including Nan Goldin and Drew Jarrett – was best friend, muse and stylist to one of the 90s’ most important image-makers: Corinne Day.
St Hill is one of the main characters of Day’s cult 2000 book, Diary, which offers an unflinchingly intimate look into the lives of the late photographer and her friends during the 90s. Documenting house parties, hospital trips, drink, drugs, tears and laughter with searing honesty and humanity, many of the images focus on St Hill, then a single mother in her early twenties bringing up a baby girl amid health struggles caused by Crohn’s Disease. “To me, photography is about showing us things that we don’t normally see,” said Day at the time of the book’s release. “Getting as close as you can to real life.”
St Hill’s latest project, Tara by Tara St Hill – which she playfully describes as “Tarazine” – sees the camera turned on her once more. Created during lockdown with photographer Zoë Law, and featuring an interview conducted by writer Shognagh Marshall, the beautiful publication compiles a series of simple yet tender black and white portraits of St Hill, some of her dressed in fabulous clothes – styled by St Hill herself of course – and others nude.
“During lockdown, some people were struggling, I was struggling,” St Hill says of the zine’s origins. “A lot, a lot of kids have been affected emotionally by Diary, so I have this little kind of community of young people that I speak to. So it was for them, I suppose more than anything. For them to have something.”
The project, she says, came about organically. She and Law grew up next door to each other in Brixton, south London, and after reconnecting five years ago through social media, the pair have remained good friends. “She asked to do my portrait at Christmas during lockdown and I agreed,” remembers St Hill. “So on 27 December, we did a shoot. I asked my friend Pep Gay to do the make-up, he’s a dear friend, and Sophie MacCorquodale to do the hair. I asked Pam Hogg and NOKI to borrow pieces, designers I really care about, and off we went to do these portraits.”
Captured amid a time of collective loneliness and uncertainty, days into the UK’s second national lockdown, the images of St Hill radiate personality and warmth, inviting the viewer into her private world. “When [Zoë] sent me the portraits they looked so beautiful, she really captured my spirit I suppose, my personality,” says St Hill. “She wasn’t trying to recreate Corinne Day pictures, they were just pictures of me as a woman. I really loved them all. We both kinda went, ‘Oh, we should do a zine.’”
“And Shonagh’s brilliant,” she says of the interview with Marshall. “Hearing her tell me how Corinne and my work inspired her to go into vintage shops and get a career in fashion, and now she’s at System magazine, I was like, ‘Holy shit, oh wow.’ It kind of blew me away … Shonagh I think cared about me, so I felt safe to speak. I felt safe to speak and just say what I needed to say.”
Available to purchase from Claire de Rouen, the zine is a personal work through and through, and a loving artefact of trust between three women – St Hill, Law and Marshall. “I just felt safe to be myself,” says St Hill. “That was the main thing. I could be myself.”
Tara by Tara St Hill is self-published and printed at PUSH, London, using vegetable based inks on 100 per cent recycled paper. Signed copies are available now at Claire de Rouen.