bruce weber on wild nights in paris at azzedine alaïa's house
In this exclusive snippet from his globe-spanning exhibition at Dallas Contemporary, “Far From Home”, Bruce Weber remembers meeting Anouk Aimée at one of Alaïa’s legendary parties.
For someone who doesn't love to fly in a plane, photographer Bruce Weber sure gets around. He's shot Nelson Mandela in Cape Town with Iman and David Bowie; his friend Pedro Almodovar holding court in Madrid; Kate Moss on a motorcycle in Ho Chi Minh City. His new, magical, and ambitious show at the Dallas Contemporary, "Far From Home", brings together the pictorial souvenirs of decades spent adventuring with his Pentax in tow, from Europe to Africa to Asia. Although he's most known for capturing a distinctively American point-of-view (golden retrievers, Adirondack lakes, corn-fed wrestlers), Weber approaches the entire world with the same exuberant gusto as his own backyard. As a kid in Pennsylvania, spurred on by an elegant globetrotting teacher and an adventurer great-uncle, Weber read National Geographic obsessively and dreamed of having his own exploits abroad. And, how those dreams have come true! With over 250 photographs as well as films and personal texts, the show will run through March 2017. Here, he shares an exclusive excerpt from the (brilliant) exhibition catalog, a very Parisian story about Azzedine Alaïa, along with epic photographs and the Paris chapter of his 2000 feature Chop Suey.
Some of my most memorable experiences in Paris happen during dinner parties at Azzedine Alaïa's house. Before he stays up all night sewing, Azzedine will cook for his friends. It's always a wild affair. One time, Grace Jones came over with her mother and son. That same night, I met Bettina Graziani, the famous model who was once married to Aly Khan. She had given her collection of fashion photographs to Azzedine to exhibit in the gallery at his atelier. Though she wasn't in very good health and was accompanied by her nurse, Bettina still looked so beautiful, wearing clothes that she probably fit into 30 years before. And seated next to me was Anouk Aimée.
I've had a crush on Anouk since seeing her in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Claude Lelouch's A Man and a Woman, my father's favorite movie. Anouk and I talked late into the night, and I couldn't believe her voice and body language—everything about her was impeccable, right down to her Alaïa dress. I asked if I could photograph her, and she said, "Call me tomorrow." We missed each other that day, and I got busy with work—by then she was on her way out of town. But Anouk left me the most wonderful voicemail message, which I saved for a very long time. It was like listening to her perform in one her films—warm, exotic, and feminine.
Azzedine is one of the few designers I've ever met who will actually come to an event if you invite him, regardless of who is going to be there. I remember him coming to Cannes when Nan and I were filming Let's Get Lost. He danced through the night with all the women at our party, and had a long line of admirers still waiting for their turn in the ballroom of the Carlton Hotel.
Azzedine's fashion shows were notorious in Paris. Everybody wanted a ticket, but it was very complicated. He had disagreements with so many different magazines and editors that you were never quite sure who you'd see there. But his fan club is international and immense—everyone knew then and knows now that he's the real deal. When I photographed his show in 1989, I knew there would never again be anything like it in the fashion world. Never had there been so many beautiful women in one place at one time: Naomi, Christy, Talisa, Elaine, Linda, and Helena. They all adored Azzedine and wanted to be there because they knew—if they were lucky enough to wear an Alaïa dress—that they'd look like one in a million. - B.W.
"Far From Home" is on view at Dallas Contemporary from September 18, 2016 to March 12, 2017.
Images courtesy and copyright Bruce Weber