Sound and vision are, pop history says, intrinsically connected and impossible to break apart. The relationship between a musician and an image-maker has proven to be a fruitful love affair. One of the most celebrated stories and well, creative liaisons, was the one between Grace Jones and Jean-Paul Goude. Grace, a super model turned-disco-singer (and later turned new-wave-goddess) met Goude, then a young french photographer and designer living in New York (nowadays a master predecessor of Michel Gondry or LaChapelle) that would end up shaping the singer’s image into outrageous proportions. The statuesque goddess-like photo that you see above is one of pop culture’s most famous photographs and remains mesmerizing even to this day (keep in mind this is pre-photoshop). The best way to understand the idea behind this surreal composition is to read Jean-Paul Goude explaining it in his own words from his memoir/coffee-table book “So Far So Goude” (Thames & Hudson). Here is an excerpt from the chapter he calls Amazing Grace:
“Out of all these extraordinary characters there was one who was to have a profound effect on my career and life. Grace Jones was one of the most visible black fashion models of the moment. And from one day to the next she had crossed over from fashion runaways to pop music. One night she invited Toukie and me to hear her sing at a gay disco called Les Mouches. Tall, skinny, verv dark, her hair cropped like a boy’s, she wore a romantic tutu that was too small for her and every once in a while her bosom would pop out whenever she raised her arms. The power of the image she projected came from this constant duality: one the one hand looking at her, she was like a caricature, almost grotesque, but on the other, she embodied the most classical African beauty.
(…) I photographed her in a veriety of positions, which I combined into a montage that made it possible to show her simultaneously full frontal and in profile, like an Egyptian bas-relief. Then, having transferred the montage to photographic paper, I used it as the preliminary sketch for a painting meant to give the photographic illusion that she alone, like a contortionist, could assume the pose, though on closer look you can see that from a strictly anatomical point of view the pose is impossible to achieve.
My picture tried to look how a flexed foot could make a classical arabesque more interesting – beautiful and grotesque at the same time, just like Grace. It was with this picture of her that my life took a new turn. Up to then, I had always ranked work over pleasure. Now I wanted the opposite. My wish was soon to come true, as I was about to live yet another rhythm – namely, hers! – for months our nights were exclusively devoted to drinking, smoking, dancing and fornicating. Her reputation for fast living was no fraud. I was having a wonderful time.”