The Story Behind These Never-Before-Seen Photos Of Kate Moss

Photo: © Mario Sorrenti/Phaidon.
There are some names in fashion who just stand out. Mario Sorrenti is one of them.
The Italian fashion photographer has lensed some of the industry's most iconic images, mostly all in grayscale, and was a key role launching Kate Moss to supermodeldom status. The two met on a job in London when they were both models; they epitomized the epic '90s love story. He'd go on to shoot the photographs that would inspire the Obsession campaign for Calvin Klein (which has since been reimagined by current creative director Raf Simons). And now, thanks to his latest book, Kate, those images — among 50 other never-before-seen photographs from their relationship — are being published.
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But why now? "A little over five years ago, my wife was organising my archive and she came across all the pictures and old contact sheets," Sorrenti tells Refinery29. "She brought them to my attention and was like, You should really do something with it." So he did. Sorrenti worked with former Barneys New York creative director Dennis Freedman to get publisher Phaidon on board. Though she didn't have a hand in editing or its design, Sorrenti says Moss was "very cool" with the project. "I spoke with Kate three years ago, and I said, Listen, I’ve found all these pictures of you and we’d like to do a book of all the photos. She loved them all."
In its foreword, Sorrenti recalls his À bout de souffle-style meeting of the then-undiscovered Moss. "I remember sitting next to her and feeling like my heart was going to stop," he writes. "I was completely overwhelmed by her charm and beauty. When the shoot ended, I didn't think I would see her again. Several weeks later, by chance, I met her at a party in South Kensington. We hung out all night, walking into the early morning until we fell asleep in the grass in Hyde Park. We spent the next two years together; we were inseparable." The book sees Moss laid bare — mostly because she's naked in more than half of the photographs. But because the pictures are so intimate, unlike anything else published of the supermodel, it's as if you shouldn't be looking at them; a pure, honest dedication.
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Photo: Courtesy of Phaidon.
Every shot in the book was captured on film. Sorrenti, the type of photographer who embraces his art in all forms, reflects on the impact technology has had on imagery. "It’s gotten to the point where things have gotten so fast and sped up that it’s becoming difficult to keep up with the demands of digital photography and social media; the world consumes images at a frightening rate," he says. "That’s very different today than it was at the time I took those pictures. There was no internet, there was no social media, there was no cell phones — it was analog photography. If I was going to shoot a roll of film, it was a roll of film. Each image was considered. I didn’t just shoot off hundreds of pictures to get the shot like people do today."
He continues: "People are constantly taking pictures of things — the ground, the inside of their pocket, buildings — and we have a completely different relationship with photography today than we did 20 years ago. Back then, it was something that was a craft that you really had to learn. You had to read light, and [learn how to] expose, you had to get a camera and lenses, etc. So today, people just take it for granted. Taking pictures is so easy today — you just pick up your phone and take a picture. It’s a completely different process."
Photo: Courtesy of Phaidon.
Asked whether there was a Kate Moss of the millennial sort, he doesn't mince words. "I don’t think there’s anybody today that reminds me of Kate. And I don’t think there ever will be," he says, underscoring the idea that there can only be one. "Today, everybody’s taking pictures of themselves. Everybody’s doing selfies. Every model is so conscious of what photography, and modelling, and being photographed is in a way that didn’t exist when Kate and I were taking pictures in the early years."
He continues: "The thing about Kate at that time, which is very different from anybody of today, is that Kate wasn't aware of it. That innocence to the medium, and to it all, to life — I don’t know if it could possibly exist anymore."
Kate by Mario Sorrenti is out now, via Phaidon ($100).
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