Friday, 23 November 2012

Audrey










The poster went up on my wall at age twelve or thirteen. The black and white close-up was the last piece in my carefully assembled bedroom – Audrey Hepburn’s eyes looking out over a purple bed and a pink inflatable chair. I wonder how many Audreys have graced similar walls, how many thousands of beehives and cigarette holders there are displayed across the world?
The poster has been gone a while now, rolled up and donated to a charity shop. My lilac walls were re-painted in cream, and what was once a minimal space has steadily cluttered with mirrors, jewellery, clothes, stacks of books, old cameras, magazines, arts' materials and sheets of paper. That portrait blue-tacked above my radiator no longer felt like an expression of my identity, but an image of the conformity embraced by my peers. We loved Audrey Hepburn, along with VW camper vans, surfer labels, pinboards, candles and fairy lights. It was one of several repeated motifs, having little to do with the woman herself and much more to do with our tentative attempts to define ourselves – as a group.
Unfortunately, this appropriation of her image meant that for several years thereafter I felt that she was somehow a cliché – a predictable choice to cite as a style icon or inspirational person, and that I had to choose individuals personal to me, rather than globally adored figures. I’m happy to admit now that this was snobbery, but will add that even if I wasn’t publicly waxing lyrical about her, I was still watching her films and gasping at the gorgeous outfits. However, she – or at least what she stood for – largely avoided mention.
I recently received a beautiful photography book called ‘Audrey: The 60s’ from Aurum Press. The range of film stills and photo shoots  - some of which were new to me - provoked a re-evaluation of my feelings about Hepburn.  I began to unpick the knotted set of references and assumptions surrounding the actress, trying to tease out my personal appreciation of her from the more tricky cultural significance she holds.
That poster I owned of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly is similar to the Warhol silk print of Marilyn Monroe – so ubiquitous as to have lost nearly all sense of original meaning. The magazine quizzes and press releases asking whether one is an ‘Audrey’ or a ‘Marilyn’ typify this, the inference being: do you want to be slender or curvy; graceful or bubbly; beautiful or a sex symbol? These two actresses are often reduced to a 2D set of attributes placed in opposition to each other. There’s no middle ground, no acknowledgment of the lives behind the name. The reality is that Audrey’s slight stature was the result of malnutrition during WWII, while Marilyn’s high IQ did little to stop her being typecast as a ‘dumb blonde.’ I have read accounts of both stars' lives (and indeed that word does seem appropriate – for similar to the stars of the night sky, the light they cast continues long after death) and respect their achievements hugely. But to take them in as a whole – their work, their lives, their image – requires more than a cursory mention.
With Hepburn (as with Monroe) image plays a huge part. That little black dress, those pearls, the sparkling jewel in her hair: they have come to represent something almost entirely divorced from the film character and the actress. The portrait is a cultural, recognizable symbol in the same way that the Rolling Stones lips are. And like that particular logo, it is sometimes bought or sported by those who have little idea of or interest in the original source – in this case, the glorious film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  For of course, the film is indeed glorious. Dodgy racial stereotyping aside, it is an infectious and rather haunting work demonstrating Hepburn’s versatility. Unlike the demure princess of Roman Holiday or intelligent bookshop employee in Funny Face, her character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was irresponsible, glamorous, complicated and willing to “visit the powder room” to earn money. It’s almost ironic that Hepburn is most famed for a role quite unlike many of her others, although it perhaps signaled the start of her divergence into more complex characters. I have yet to see ‘Wait until Dark’ and ‘Two for the Road’ and savour the thought of curling up to watch each of them. Several years on, my appreciation of Audrey Hepburn is more than a poster on a wall. It is a deep admiration for the adversity she faced, the humility she demonstrated and the elegance she displayed. To lapse into praise is easy, for so much has already been written about her that words fly with ease; adjectives such as ‘modest’ and ‘charming’. They're the kinds of words that are meant honestly, but like the Breakfast at Tiffany’s portrait, have become dulled by repetition.

But what hasn’t dulled is the possibility of being dazzled by the rich archive of imagery left behind. There are so many photographs and shoots worth diving back through. The selection found in ‘Audrey: The 60s’ both refreshed and kindled my imagination. Hepburn’s face was soulful and expressive, whether it was framed by the elaborate constructions of hair in ‘My Fair Lady’ or the cropped fringe in ‘How to Steal a Million.’ This celebratory coffee table book, with the satisfying size of the images and sumptuous colour co-ordination of the spreads, is a testament to that mesmerising beauty. Turning the thick pages is a luxurious experience; discovering previously unpublished photos a delight. Although I initially found the accompanying quotes (from friends, photographers and Hepburn herself)  almost intrusive, they build up and iterate the fullness of Audrey Hepburn’s skill, charisma and integrity. 

The outfit is quite self-explanatory, although my emulation of Holly Golightly was completed using an entirely second hand set of materials: original 60s dress from my paternal grandmother, shoes from charity shop and the gloves, pearls and jewellery all vintage from family members. I had to make do with a paint brush in place of the cigarette holder, but I love the black line like a swoop of ink. Thank you to the effervescent and ever-fabulous Flo for taking the photos. Exciting news about a joint photography venture of ours coming soon... 

A taste of the images in the book to whet the appetite, taken from the website. Thank you to Aurum for the copy: 






20 comments:

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

I see what you mean about her being a cliché of a style icon. I feel similar about Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor. But I still love them. And all 3 were such wonderful actresses.
You look absolutely wonderful. You actually look a bit like Eva Green in these photos.

alexandratherese said...

A beautiful shoot and indeed, subject matter Roz. You make several really thoughtful points about Audrey and her iconographic status. I'm typing this, having just glanced up to meet the eyes of the very same Audrey - her face monochrome, her cropped hair and fringe perfectly framing those defined eyebrows, those doe-like eyes. I think this in itself proves your point about her image being so readily available and known that she has lost some of her impact, which is sad but true. All those things you mention that at a certain age it was cool to define your identity with - fairy lights, vw camper vans - well I did that too. And when, like you, I re-decorated my room in cream and raspberry I removed all the posters from my wall - the likes of Audrey and Blondie - yet now my walls are clean and bare again, Audrey is the only one who remains. On a small canvas looking effortlessly beautiful.

I remember the first time I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's and loving it. "Moonriver" still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I hear it. On a musical aside, have you come across the singer-songwriter Kal Lavelle? She plays acoustic guitar and sings in this wonderful, husky Irish lilt and she wrote and recorded a song called "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in reference to Holly Gollightly. If you get a chance have a listen (there are some great tracks on her EP as well). I'm intrigued to know more about Audrey as I've never really researched her story, apart from snippits I've read in magazines when anyone's labelled "an Audrey" like you said.

Lastly, I can't get over how tall you look in the 5th shot! You are the perfect representation of Audrey Roz. Have a lovely weekend! Alexandra xx

Leah R. said...

beautiful images! i particularly love the 6 th one! audrey is one of my icons too but what u have said has made me reasses why she is,
xx
www.thefrillseekers.blogspot.com

Marla said...

Fabulous pictures. Audrey Hepburn was amazing. I loved her style. She was the definition of elegant.

Renisha said...

Wow you carried off this outfit so elegantly..sucha classy look!


-Renisha
She Rockin Them Stilettos

Melanie said...

I love your photographic and written homage to Ms. Hepburn. My favourite films of hers are Roman Holiday and the breakfast one, an iconic woman to be sure. The Holly character would have found her clothes vintage as well, I suspect. And your paint brush is an excellent substitute for the cigarette holder. You are stunning.

Hepburn is art for me, not a human presence so much as something to be admired for style, grace - and elocution! (I's a laydee I is.) I dislike movies based on her life - they seem tawdry in comparison to the original.

Rosa Fay said...

Absolutely beautiful shots! Truly wonderful outfit! Love it, love it, love it!

I can see what you mean. I was never completely sure of Hepburn myself. Dazzlingly beautiful, yes. An amazing style icon, yes - but as an actress I kind of felt she was missing something. This was until I watched 'Wait Until Dark'. All time favorite film (Next to Rebel Without A Cause - but you know that, haha!) The acting from everyone was fantastic. I think that maybe I liked Hepburn in it so much because she pushed away her girly side. Either way- brilliant movie, brilliant actress!

Emalina said...

What a beautiful photo shoot and a great tribute to Audrey. Icons can't help but become cliches I guess, but something about Hepburn and Monroe's charismatic images resonate with so many of us.

Sacramento Amate said...

I have you rather than Audrey any time.
Much love and admiration, my dear Rosalind.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Bella Q said...

The original gamine and ingenue. LOVE her. I get what you're saying when the cliche of icon and fashion inspiration gets thrown her way- but I'm still in love with Audrey- the woman, the actress and the natural stylist. She tore my world up and made it possible for me to enter the realm of style- her girlish gamine ways, her artful airs and her classic yet quirky (at the time) style. I've watched all her movies, read a few biographies and sat through a dreadful bio-pic for my love of her. I want this book- it looks like a wonderful momento of this graceful lady who marked so many of us.

Helen Le Caplain said...

It's a tad annoying that she's generally remember just for one character and look - but as this book surely shows is just how versatile, quirky and down right gorgeous she was.

And very talented too..... damn it!

www.mancunianvintage.com

daisychain said...

These photos, wow, just wow...I can't even focus on the words you've written.

Vix said...

Goodness me, you look so sleek and elegant!
I never "got" Audrey Hepburn's appeal, I've never even seen any of her films. xxx

Sydney Corporate by LuisaM said...

You have truly recreated the class and fabulousness of Audrey! So commendable!

http://sydneycorporate.blogspot.com.au/

ANGELINA SAW said...

Came across your blog and your blog is definitely one that I'm following right now! I really love your writing style and how you incorporate it with beautiful pictures of fashion. Really inspiring!

http://heartshapesandcrosses.blogspot.com/

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

Lovely post and thoughtful writing that allows me to appreciate the glimpse of an icon, with the crust of overexposure peeled away a little bit. Your interpretation of her is lovely as well, although you feel more serious, whereas she feels somber in her coquettishness.

The fashion really is inspiring. I've never seen a striped, sporty dress look so good.

Caro * said...

So elegant :)

FASHION TALES said...

Wonderfully captured Roz! I adore the interpretation, especially the last stunning photo. Wait Until Dark is a good suspenseful classic ... I remember when I first saw it pleasantly surprised how much I loved it.
Have a lovely weekend!

The Foolish Aesthete said...

You're a beautiful and innocent Holly Golightly! I love your 3-strand pearls and that starburst on your top knot.

Idolizing Audrey seems to be a rite of passage for most girls who aspire towards chic elegance. As a young lady in my 20s, (particularly living in Manhattan then) Audrey was the epitome of living like a young sophisticate! I remember hosting a Halloween party back then, and -- predictably falling into that cliché you discuss here -- I was dressed up very much like you in this shoot! I wish I could have been as imaginative as you in pulling out a paint brush for lack of a cigarette holder. At least that would have been a bit creative.

In any case, I know little of her life except that she fought to use her popularity to care for others. Wasn't she a UNICEF spokesperson? Enjoy your book! It's difficult to tire of looking at Audrey Hepburn. - J xxx

regina said...

these are all so beautiful, I'm so impressed by your ability of becoming the character, also you have amazing features , really different and beautiful features