INCOMPARABLE COUPLES BY ROSE HARTMAN
Image above: Rose Hartman by Marsin
Rose Hartman is a legend. An omnipresent force on the New York City social scene, Rose stands as one of the most prolific photographers of our age. As a female photographer, Rose has jumped over every hurdle in a male-dominated world to create a huge body of work, documenting the demimonde of fame and glamour in the center of world culture. If you are famous, she has most likely photographed you, whether you know her well or not at all. Her groundbreaking photography straddles the boundaries between street photography, portraiture and documentary photography.
Marsin: Your past publications include ‘Birds of Paradise’ 1980 and ‘Incomparable: Women of Style’ 2012. What inspired your third book, ‘Incomparable Couples’ 2015?
Rose: ‘Incomparable Couples’ was inspired by a very dear friend and associate, Manuel Santelices, who is the New York fashion writer for Vogue Mexico & Latin America as well as the New York correspondent for Cosas Magazine, he has a very good eye. I was thinking of doing men of style, and then he pointed out that I have so many images of couples. Not in the ordinary term when thinking of couples, because RuPaul is pictured with K.D. Lang, they are not a couple but in a brief second of time they connected while doing the MAC Viva Glam campaign, and that’s when I caught them. Elizabeth Taylor with her dog… I thought their hairstyle was similar, or a mother and child image of Kate Moss having an intimate discussion with her little daughter.
M: So, when you first had the conversation with Manuel…
R: After I had the conversation with Manuel, his suggestions completely resonated. I realized that throughout my long career, starting in about 1975, I was always interested in the relationship between two people.
M: Inside the pages of ‘Incomparable Couples’ a short bio entitled ‘My World’ begins with a quote by Gore Vidal that states, “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” Please elaborate.
R: That phrase resonates with me because I’ve known so many women who simply are focused on creating an image that it doesn’t seem to come from their heart. It seems to come from their stylist, or the money that they can spend on getting the perfect Hermès bag, or a stunning Oscar de la Renta, but not again feeling it. For me, I will never forget an image that I took of Lauren Hutton wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt with a parrot on her shoulder at an Armani boutique party, and she just looked perfect. Because it was her style.
Rose Hartman signing a book at de Grisogono.
M: What was the selection process like for this book?
R: First, what I’ve done was transfer many slides and analogs to digital. I have worked with my lab partner and have converted all of the images as JPG’s. I’ve looked at the JPG’s as well as the slides over and over again. It was a long process. Then, I worked with my book agent who provided both positive and negative feedback, “oh that picture is stronger or that person is staring at you with a public persona, which is what you don’t want.” Finally I came up with about 145 images.
M: Is there one particular image that relates most to this particular book?
R: I would rather have the reader answer that. I would really like to hear from my readers. On the cover I put David Bowie and Iman because they are still married, still fabulous, they have done so much with their lives and that is another very crucial point. The book is not about people who simply look stylish; the book is about interactions between people, and the success of each person.
M: From shooting Studio 54 to shooting The Met Gala, how did you prepare yourself?
R: The Met Gala was a time where photographers could easily move around inside the gala, as opposed to today where there are only a select number of photographers. I had a lot of freedom. I would always wear black clothing, smartly dressed, but in no way competing with the more than glamorous guests. Regarding to Studio 54 would be a black jacket and black trousers and comfortable shoes. I would stay there for about three to four hours, dance, take photos and hide my camera in the speakers. But always be watching what is going on around me. When I saw someone or a particular situation that interested me, I would grab my camera, which at that point was not automatic, and it was pretty dark in the studio, and I would shoot people such as Mick Jagger, and return to dancing and hide my camera. It was being at the right place and at the right time. I would be very close to the subjects, about two feet away from them.
Montgomery Frazier and Rosemary Ponzo at the book signing
M: Being so close to the subject you photograph did you use flash?
R: Oh yes, at the studio, the Met Gala and most of the events.
M: When taking photos, have you ever startle or offended anyone by the flash?
R: Most people I photographed have been iconic figures. They were used to being photographed, it would be insane if they weren’t. They are also used to presenting themselves in a particular way. I never taken an embarrassing photograph of a public figure, and I would never capture a messy moment.
Sandra Velez and Jack Rich at book signing.
M: In three words, how would you describe this book??
R: Intimate. Interactions. Super original images.
M: Perhaps even intimate interactions in a flash?
R: Yes! [laugh] That could be the next book title!
At the book signing.
M: Where can we find ‘Incomparable Couples’, as well as all of your previous books?
M: Are you planning another book?
R: I have travelled a great deal in my life. I always had my camera along and have shot a lot of women in their daily lives. Perhaps, the women of the world.
At the book signing.
M: Is there a muse that you have?
R: I have to say this to you and it may sound strange, but I always adored Kate Moss. I have been photographing her since she first started with her career and not many were paying attention to her. I have to say that my eye is very developed and I can watch someone and I know… I said to myself, that girl is going to become world famous. I wasn’t wrong and that made me happy.
M: What do you want now?
R: I have been a social historian, a commentator on style for many years and I really want my work to be in fine museums or galleries. I have done a lot of exhibitions but never to the masses. I had a wonderful exhibition in the New York Fashion Institute and received the greatest praise from The London Times, The New York Times and many other publications but there is a great urge to move on… I want to move along. I think its time. But right now, I am planning to do four book launches at different venues in New York and part of the book proceeds will be donated to God’s Love We Deliver. Doing it on my own is exhausting but my photos mean everything to me. I still carry my Lumix, volunteer for different charity auctions like Bailey House in March I provide photos so that money can be made for charities that I believe in. And I am glad to be alive.
Valerie and Di Mondo at Book Signing
M: So, I think we will be doing another interview soon about your gallery opening.
R: Oh, that’s lovely thank you Marsin.