26 May Interview: Peter Schlesinger / AnOther Man
To step into Peter Schlesinger’s iconic photographs from the 1960s and 70s is to enter another world – a decadent, responsibility-free utopia populated with some of the 20th century’s most significant creative figures. There are long, wine-soaked lunches in the Provence sun with Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, lazy afternoons on a California terrace with Christopher Isherwood, and even Cecil Beaton kicking back in a three-piece suit in the lush green paradise of his conservatory at Reddish House.
No brand in the current fashion landscape feels as closely aligned with this intellectual milieu than Gucci: Alessandro Michele’s carefree, nostalgic vision of how to dress seems a perfect match for Schlesinger’s rose-tinted window into a lost bohemia. The product of this creative synergy is a limited edition hardbound art book, Disturbia, which pairs Schlesinger’s Gucci-clad youths wandering through eerie Roman villas with extracts from scripts by Italian horror’s most stylish maestro, Dario Argento.
Given the sartorial pedigree of Schlesinger’s social circle over the decades, I’m surprised to learn it’s his first venture into fashion photography. “It was an amazing thing to be asked to do,” he tells me. “When my first book came out, everyone said I was going to get loads of fashion commissions, but it never happened. When Gucci approached me, it was scary. Luckily my agent gave me the confidence boost to say yes.”
This is a typically modest response from Schlesinger, who despite his charmed life and career, has always preferred to work behind the scenes, and is keen to play down his impact on generations of photographers, from the candid portraits of YBAs on holiday taken by Johnnie Shand Kydd to the scenes of upper crust living documented by Tina Barney. It’s this lack of showiness that contributes to the unguarded intimacy of his now iconic portraits, and the intense voyeurism we feel looking into the private lives of the glitterati.