Unseen Kate Moss: Interview with Owen Scarbiena by Scarlet Conlon
Vogue Interview with Owen Scarbiena for his Unseen Kate Moss Images
Dedicated Kate Moss fans will profess to have seen every professional photograph of their idol in existence – but they would be wrong. In a forthcoming exhibition, Kate Moss: Unseen, photographer Owen Scarbiena presents the earliest images of the supermodel in front of a professional camera, seen here for the first time. Neither he nor Moss – who was 14-years-old at the time – could predict that it would kick-start the career that would come to dominate the fashion industry. In this exclusive interview, Scarbiena shares a preview of the images in the exhibition and recounts his memories of the momentous shoot.
What are your memories of the shoot?
In the summer of 1988, I was shooting an image series of models in designer blouses and sports underwear when I got a call from Sarah Doukas, director of Storm Models, asking me to come and meet their new girl. Her name was Kate Moss and they were keen for me to shoot some of my clean, minimalist test shots of her as they thought I’d love her look. As it happened, she fitted in precisely to the project I was shooting that summer. The rest was fashion and cultural history and those images started her meteoric rise to fashion icon and queen of the catwalk.
What are your memories of Kate?
She was unimposing, innocent, fresh, unaffected and had a striking, nymph-like beauty. I loved the way that she sat for me in that shoot because she demonstrated that she had no pre-conceived ideas about how models are supposed to pose or stand. I simply let her be herself and directed her by telling her stories or asking her to imagine certain scenarios, and then shot her. She was so fresh and natural, with a temperament that made that first shoot fun and exciting for us both.
Have you been in touch with her since?
I remained in touch with Kate for years after our shoot and we’d often bump into each other around London. But then I moved to Italy and in the meantime, Kate became a global name, so we gradually lost contact.
Why have these images been under wraps for so long?
I had a few images from the project in my portfolio for a while and gradually they were replaced with newer work. The black-and-white images from the shoot had been processed but were never used, so I stored them away, partly forgotten, until now.
What have been highlights of your career since?
My career has been varied since then. After living in Italy for a while, working for Vogue Bambini and Donna magazine, I then returned to the UK to shoot regularly for fashion magazines, advertising and beauty products before including cinematography and music promotions.
Why are you displaying them now?
In a casual conversation with my closest friend, she told me about a gallery that looks out for interesting, iconic images for exhibitions. This inspired me to go back through my images and I found some gems, including these first professional shots of a 14-year-old Kate for Storm. I had the black-and-white Kate Moss shots re-contacted and approached Gabrielle du Plooy of Zebra One Gallery who was stunned and couldn’t wait to share them with the rest of the world.
Kate Moss: Unseen, by Owen Scarbiena was presented by Zebra One Gallery for 2 weeks on February 23, 2016