Thursday, July 30, 2009

Grace Jones ... "So Far So Goude"

Portrait by Jean-Paul Goude

The arabesque that Grace Jones is executing in this 1978 photograph/artistic creation may be graceful, but it is also impossible. "What I'm interested is the illusion of reality," says the photographer and art director Jean-Paul Goude, who was to be Jones's Pygmalion, transforming her from hard-partying model to an androgynous fantasy image and international superstar. "And unless you are extraordinarily supple, you cannot do this arabesque. The main point is that Grace couldn't do it, and that's the basis of my entire work: creating a credible illusion."

A look through So Far So Goude, which collects the highlights of Goude's idiosyncratic 30-year career, reveals how much he has been inspired by the idea of an impossible image of womanhood. Goude's approach was to prove ultimately frustrating as far as Jones was concerned.

She had gained a certain amount of fame from modelling and performing in gay discos when Goude met and fell in love with her, and decided that she needed a more dramatic image. He photographed Jones in a variety of positions that were combined in a montage to make it possible to show her in profile and full frontal simultaneously. The anatomically unlikely arabesque was the end result. Accompanying an article by Nik Cohn in New York magazine, Goude's photographs were to launch Jones as an icon. Then he let his imagination run free, creating images of her with an imaginary male twin and multiplying her into an army of clones.

"Initially, she was flattered by all of my attention," says Goude on his former muse and lover. "And she's no dope - Grace is an opportunist and she knew my vision was good for her career. Initially, she let herself be taken over, but then she suspected that I had only fallen in love with her image." Was that true? "Of course it was! That's the story of my life."

Will Hodgkinson

[ Taken from · So Far So Goude, by Jean-Paul Goude with Patrick Mouries, published by Thames & Hudson ]