Life & Culture

Candid Photos of the 70s Celeb Set

Carinthia West’s star-studded photography features everyone from The Rolling Stones to David Bowie – as a new exhibition of her photography goes on show, she reflects on the ‘crazy time’ of the 70s

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“She took photos while we were getting on with life...” once said Ronnie Wood of model, actress and journalist Carinthia West, who tomorrow presents a new exhibition of her photography at Fenwick of Bond Street.

Presented with a little Box Brownie camera when she was a young girl, West took endless photos of her parents and pets throughout her youth. She later graduated to a Canon EF, by which time it was the 70s and she was travelling the world as a successful model and actress, continuing to take photos along the way. She shot ‘ordinary’ people such as “the flower seller, the bartender, the film extra, the man on the street”, but also her celebrity friends who included the likes of Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, David Bowie, and the Getty family. Shot in black and white, her images are candid and depict these famous faces in a more relaxed light than you might be used to seeing them.

Leo Fenwick has collected some of them in the past and invited West to exhibit some in the Octagon Room of his Bond Street store. Ahead of the show, which is aptly titled Hanging Out at Fenwick, West tells us more about these images and reflects on this stage of her life.

“This is an edited collection of approximately 15 images from an archive containing over 5,000 negatives, slides, and prints. Leo Fenwick and I looked at about a hundred images and chose these 15 as representative portraits of some of the icons of our age, that would also mean something to the young who shop at Fenwick.

“From the 15 images at Fenwick, I would say I am very fond of the close-up of a grinning Mick Jagger, showing the diamond in his tooth, the portrait of a laughing Carly Simon, with the World Trade Centre towers reflected in her sunglasses, many years before the tragedy struck there, the image of David Bowie so vulnerable on a stage strewn with red roses, and Robin Williams entertaining guests at Christmas lunch. I am also very fond of the young Balthazar Getty playing with a cocktail parasol while his father, Paul, enters the room in the background.

“I think a lot of the images capture a very happy era, which is not to say that in the context of the world in the 60s, 70s and 80s, there weren’t some tragic global events, it’s just that my personal experience amongst my own tribe of friends, basically contained a lot of laughter and free spirited thinking. Remember this was a time when there were no mobile phones, computers, or social media. I think we were the better off for it in a way, although when I need to send an immediate image to a magazine or newspaper I am extremely grateful for today’s technology!

“Sometimes it feels like another person took these photographs! Almost as if I was being ‘channelled’ if you get my drift… although many of the subjects remain friends to this day, there are also so many who have died, or rather passed on to another dimension. I like to think they remain very much alive in these pictures. God bless them all, as it was a wonderful crazy time, but my life is much calmer these days!”

Hanging Out at Fenwick runs from June 7 at Fenwick of Bond Street