Born in 1941 in Vichy in France, under the name of Marielle Hadengue. The story has it that her family escaped the Nazis and became British residents. She studied drawing as a teenager before becoming a model in the 1960’s. She was a beautiful girl working at a revolutionary time in the fashion industry. While backstage she would take pictures of her fellow models, and soon the girls were asking her to take their head shots. Perhaps it was having to escape from her country as a young girl, or even the feeling of ‘other’ at being in a strange country, which led to her eventual style, but it was definitely her understanding of the industry and of the female form which gave her early work a subtlety, a tenderness, which male photographers were not so able to capture. Soon enough magazines wanted her for fashion shoots, and her career took off from there, working for avant guard fashion designer Biba, and becoming in-house photographer for legendary French fashion house Cacharel.
Her style was so ‘a la mode’ that she was able to experiment and learn and grow as she worked. “I was so lucky to have the freedom to capture what I felt” Sarah Moon was the first woman to photograph the Pirelli Calendar in 1972. The pictures reveal hardly any flesh, just her signature old fashioned feel, harking back to the 30’s, to innocence. These extraordinary shots are sensual but not sexual, beautiful and romantic - unlike any other Pirelli calendar.
She shaped the world of fashion in the 70’s with her ethereal and whimsical images. Always telling a story of her own, while still fulfilling the brief. As she has evolved as a photographer so her pictures have taken on an edge. Moon depicts many symbols of the darkness of human existence, such as old age and fear of death, loneliness. However, it is all done in a fantastical, magical way.
One of her most striking exhibitions, was a series based on Hans Christian Anderson’s. The little Matchgirl. Her vision of the surreal and dark world of the Circus creates a truly menacing yet breathtakingly beautiful collection of images. Striking because of their simplicity and imbued with the sense of sadness, as the story goes the Circus is disbanded but none can really survive without it
In her latest exhibition “About colour’ at the Michael Hoppen Gallery, Moon investigates her own relationship with colour. As a rule she prefers black and white as she feels it creates a more removed feel, it is a way of distancing the viewer from the subject. Whereas, colour makes everything more immediate, more ’now’. So, she makes it her own, disperses it, distorts it, by using a filter and increasing the grain, thus finding her trademark, hazy, dreamlike quality.
She does not want to intrude with her photographs, she seeks mearly to capture a moment, a feeling. Photography to her is a way of looking at the world, objectively, as it is, with a clear eye. “I think that it’s perhaps the only way to learn how to see.’ She said in an interview with the Independent in 2008 “I don't believe that I am making any defined statement. Instead, I am expressing something, an echo of the world maybe.”
ABOUT COLOUR is on at the Michael Hoppen Gallery until 5th April 2014.