Horses: “I never see me. I see us.”
This is my copy of Horses, battered but unbowed after 35 years.
The story behind the photo-shoot for the front cover lies at the heart of Just Kids, Patti Smith’s valediction for Robert Mapplethorpe.
In the unadorned but emotionally charged style which marks out the best of Smith’s music, she writes of her artistic and personal communion with the photographer: “I had no sense of how it would look, just that it should be true. The only thing I promised Robert was that I would wear a clean shirt with no stains on it.”
Smith selected a shirt bearing the monogram “RV” from a stack purchased from the Bowery branch of the Salvation Army. This brought to mind Brassaï’s 1947 portrait of Jean Genet and sparked her imagination that it might once have belonged to Roger Vadim.
That day in September 1975, Smith snipped off the cuffs so that the shirt fitted underneath a black jacket she embellished with a horse pin given her by ex Allen Lanier.
This was matched with black peg trousers, white lisle socks and black Capezios.
She and Mapplethorpe waited for the sky to clear in the late afternoon over grits and eggs at the Pink Tea Cup, and then took off for (their friend and his lover) Sam Wagstaff’s penthouse apartment at One Fifth Avenue
“I had my look in mind. He had his light in mind. That is all.”
Smith’s account reveals the degree of self-awareness in operation: “I flung my jacket over my shoulder, Frank Sinatra style. I was full of references. He was full of light and shadow.”
Mapplethorpe shot 12 frames. “Within a few days he showed me the contact sheet. ‘This one has the magic,’ he said.
“When I look at it now, I never see me. I see us.”
Visit The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation here.