Betsey Johnson

Linda Morand on Mademoiselle, Betsey Johnson, Gosta Petersen and Arthur Elgort.

by Samantha Perez 2010

I had a couple of years experience in the modeling world of the Sixties.  The things I saw, the creativity I experienced and the people I met left an indelible impression on me. I never forgot the beautiful faces of my fellow models and those who came before me.

In New York I was taken up by Mademoiselle, a magazine for sophisticated  College Girls, Career Girls (pre-womens’ lib term)  and Young Marrieds.

Because of my involvement at a very young age with my future husband, I dropped out of an active and rising modeling career.  The lifestyle and romance he offered me was irresistible and involved constant traveling between Paris, Rome, LA, New York, the South of France and Munich.  Fashion was a volatile world, and everyone knew it would be a short ride.  And so it was.  But for me it was a sweet ride.  However, I remained active on the fringes in all those cities, occasionally appearing in a fashion show, or a bit part in a movie.  I returned to the catwalk in the Early Seventies working with Karl Lagerfeld and other top designers. Those experiences changed me forever.

 

I was around when some of the greatest designers were still very big  in Paris as the British Invasion was becoming an international phenomenon.  I was lucky to work with someof the greatest photographers and meet most of them.  I worked with, partied with and had lunch with some of the most beautiful and interesting people, the models themselves.  I was not the biggest model, probably not very important at all, but I was there in the beginning and did get to participate in the creativity.  I also did many bread and butter jobs as a catalog queen in Europe. The work was dull, but the locations were superb.  Before the German clients discovered it was preferable to set up in South Beach, Florida, they would pay to transport groups of models, a photographer, stylists, assistants, tons of equipment and dozens of dresses to exotic locations around the world.

Here is a series I did for Mademoiselle in 1966.

This photo cannot be seen well because it is behind glass. but I have a better scan of the version that ended up in Mademoiselle. Below. I like this one much better.These dresses were by Betsey Johnson. At that time she was the hottest designer in New York. Her dresses were works of art. Mine was made of metallic silver and was very form fitting. Kathy Jackson’s dress was even wilder made of see-through plastic over soft silk-like fabric. The top had cutouts which gave an illusion of nudity, very outrageous, but done with a whimsical sense of humor.

Models were encouraged to make odd and unusual poses, very different from the Fifties and early Sixties when the poses were stylized, but graceful and lady-like. My technique was to do something different, quirky and off beat. I chose to lean back to add movement to the image. Models and photographer and assistant working as a team, all with the vision in their heads. It was breakthrough.

We actually did the hair and make-up ourselves. Christophe of Sassoon had done my cut, which helped me to stand out a bit from all the other brunette models who were my type. It was literally wash and wear, very easy to maintain. There were only a few people in the studio, the models, Gosta Peterson, his very bright and creative assistant: Arthur Elgort and the editors who were the stylists, armed with wonderful accessories.

The background was created by Artie, as he was called. The studo was rendered pitch black while the models held the stylized poses for about 30 seconds.

Such photography had never been done before and now a few top photographers were experiment with techniques that look like futuristic computer images. No one had a computer and there was no Photoshop. Fantastic effects were created literally by smoke and mirrors, or in this case neon lights and double exposure.

I thought of this whimsical pose, very unusual. It was hard to stay still for 30 seconds on one leg

Then Artie would wave a neon light in the background in varying patterns, painting with light. Once the streaming colorful lines lines had made their imprint on the film, Gosta would press the button on the end of a long cord connected to the newest lighting technology, the Strobe Light. The strobe light and the Nikon camera changed the way fashion could be photographed. Young people, mostly young men, flocked to the cities th try their hands as fashion photographers. There was so much work, so much opportunity for new talent. The economy was good, at least for us. Lot’s more adventures and creativity lay ahead.

3 comments

  1. Thank you for your comments. I love reading your stories too. Our experiences were quite different but the milieu was the same. I am so happy to have connected here and on Facebook.

  2. Please keep me posted on your blog updates. I will put a link on it on my blog. There are not many models from the Sixties doing this. It is great to hear about the models we worked with too. And the photographers and designers, etc. I love how you put a link to the interesting names. This took a lot of work and it is appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s