Renowned photographer Donna Trope delves into her archive of Polaroids, exclusively for AnOther
Over the past decades, legendary photographer Donna Trope has established herself as an icon within fashion, collaborating with some of the industry's greatest names to challenge conventions and constructions of beauty. Her work is simultaneously hyper-sexual and subversive; her subjects beautiful and yet confrontational. Here, she unveils some of her stash of 20,000 Polaroid photographs, originally shot as on-set tests, which reveal another side to her glossily finished archive.
"My Polaroids are usually rejects," explained Trope. "Only a few of these pictures are the actual finished image; the majority are the outtakes, the throwaways, the trash. But I like them: they are like my alter ego. What I really liked and wanted to show, but I never did. The finished image was 'finished' – thought out, tampered with, retouched and glossed over. These ones are real."
In a digital era of iPhone retouching and Instagram filters, Polaroid photography has maintained the cachet of documenting reality: its results are instantaneous; creases can't be ironed out in post-production. "We all love Polaroids," says Trope. "They represent something to everyone. Polaroids are poignant, they evoke the 70s, of Andy Warhol and co. They are the original selfie of the 'me' decades, they are instant gratification. They are the real thing." Here, as she prepares to launch her Instagram account devoted to her archive of Polaroid pictures, Trope explains the stories behind some of her iconic images – exclusively published on AnOther.
"This story was styled and art directed by Katie Grand and, titled Preservation Vamp, it was all about plastic surgery and keeping yourself young and beautiful – forever 17, like a vampire. We even had a live bat! To say that this shoot was controversial is an understatement... It caused a furore within the modeling industry: Laraine Ashton threatened to quit the business, April Ducksbury said it could encourage murders. Everyone from the Daily Mail to The Telegraph kept asking "is it porn, or is it art?" and Rankin even appeared on Kilroy to defend the magazine. The infamy of my naughty images had only just begun and I never looked back."
"Jerry Hall is it; she has her look down, reeks glamour and is the quintessential rock star model. I remember, she walked into the studio in New York wearing a giant diamond and ruby bauble, a gift from Mick, and she told me I reminded her of her ex – Bryan Ferry. It's still one of the best compliments I've ever had. Katie [Grand] styled her in Comme des Garçons and we tried to tune the glam down a bit... which isn't so easy to do with Jerry!"
"Susie Bick, now Mrs. Nick Cave, is amazing: she's beautiful, and fearless. She's like a triple threat of brains, beauty and that magical something else. This story was about eating animals and we had all sorts – from dead scorpions, to snakes and snails. Susie had the snail charmed... she didn't miss a beat. It walked right up to her tongue and I got my shot in ten seconds flat."