A new book of previously-unseen photos of Amy Winehouse, taken in 2003 around the release of her first album Frank, is currently in production with funding via a Kickstarter campaign. Photographer Charles Moriarty shot the candid image of Amy in a bright pink top, leading a dog and partially obscured by darkness that would become the cover image for Frank. The soon to be released book, titled Before Frank, is comprised of the shots taken during a couple of intimate photo sessions during that period.
Amy and Charles formed a friendship during the course of shooting and the portraits show a happy, healthy and relaxed Amy which are in contrast to the barrage of far more depressing tabloid images that marked her last years.
We spoke to Charles about working with Amy and the responsibility of preserving a friend's memory.
Your shots are really beautiful and a reminder of happier times for Amy. Why did you wait thirteen years to publish them?
It just never felt right before. I saw Asif Kapadia's movie Amy last year and I came away with this deep sadness and I wanted to leave people with something happier. I think it's an amazing documentary but Before Frank is something different and casts her in a fresher and happier light. For me it feels like sharing a memory I've had for a long time. I think they needed to come out. We were kids when these photos were taken, Amy was just twenty, and we just had such a fun time.
Why did you decide to self-release this book? I imagine there must have been a lot of interest from publishers.
I thought about it but what struck me the most was that I might lose control. I really felt that I couldn't cut any corners and I didn't want it to be challenged by profit margins. Doing it myself I can make sure we create a book that's exceptional.
Were you shooting prolifically at the time? Was this cut down from a lot of shots?
Not really. I think I got really lucky with Amy because she's so striking and it was just super relaxed and we go some great shots without taking that many. I prefer not to look at them as individual images now because when they are put into the context of a book they start to tell a story. They flow together so nicely and have a really sweet emotion to them that I love.
Do you have a particular favourite memory from the shoot?
There's a picture of her in a black Patrick Swayze t-shirt with her Gibson guitar. We shot it in the lift at the Ritz Tower in New York and the Bell Boys kept calling down the lift because that's all she was wearing. We thought that was funny. It was such a great 24 hours. Originally we planned to shoot outside at night to capture the essence of the album cover but before we left the building a massive six hour thunder and lightning storm came through so our plans had to change. All the great indoor shots wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the storm. It was a lucky mess up. That's also a big part of why the images weren't used at the time, because they didn't fit in with what we'd already shot. In many ways that was lucky.
When will the book be available?
At present I'm still working on the design. We hope to have copies available at the beginning of August. You can't rush good design.
Text Briony Wright
Photography Charles Moriarty