Posts Tagged ‘Cowboy Kate’

Alida Haskins (1927-2012)

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Sam and Alida guests of honour

Sam & Alida – guests of honour at a photographic dinner, Johannesburg, late 60s.

Alida and Sam London 70s

Alida and Sam in the Glebe Place, Chelsea, London studio in the 70s. Photo: Petr Tausk 1976. This image is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Alida Haskins (1927-2012), my mother and wife to Sam Haskins (1926-2009), passed away on December 5th, 2012 in Sydney Australia, she had been ill with Mesothelioma for a year.

Alida was not just Sam’s wife, she was his business companion for his entire career. The great heroic moment of her support for Sam was the successful sale of ‘Five Girls’ (1962) after being turned down by dozens of publishers. ‘Five Girls’ changed the history of figure photography, inspired the greats of the time including Penn, Avedon and Sieff and launched entire careers like that of Wingate Paine. The commercial success of ‘Five Girls’ and the photographic explorations of grain, dynamism, natural beauty, controlled aesthetics, graphic composition and book layout saw their full expression in Sam’s following three books from the sixties; ‘Cowboy Kate & Other Stories’ (1964), ‘November Girl’ (1967) and ‘African Image’ (1967). Cowboy Kate was featured in the International Centre of Photography’s (NY) exhibition ‘The Open Book: A History of the Photographic Book from 1878 to the Present’ (2005). ‘Kate’ as the book is affectionately known, is probably one of the best selling photographic books of all time. Sam’s distinctive, revolutionary black and white images from the sixties are today, more than ever, highly influential on image and style makers from myriad visual disciplines.

All of this would not have been possible without the business savvy farm girl from South Africa who travelled alone to New York – her first trip to the states – with a ludicrously heavy, hand printed maquette of Five Girls under her arm and a rolodex of every photobook publisher in NY. After six weeks of seeing a publisher every morning and every afternoon (developing an ulcer in the process) and being rejected every time, Sam sent her a telegram and told her to come home. Alida, of course, refused to give up, and the rest is history.

Alida remains to this day uncredited for her creative contribution to Sam’s work – everyone simply saw her as the business mind behind the successful photographer and the chef of legendary studio lunches and dinners. However, Alida had a highly developed eye which many people noted and informally she advised advertising agencies, the BBC, fashion and major lifestyle retailers with ideas that became revolutionary but for which her contribution is unknown.

In Sam’s studio Alida played a key creative role as a stylist. Scouring Johannesburg, London, New York and Paris for props that have been immortalised in Sam’s books. She quietly but firmly also acted as a brilliant picture editor. Her eye for successful design resonance remained as sharp as a tack to the end of her life. During her later years I often found myself waiting with her in doctor’s consulting rooms and I devised a game whereby we would rapidly page through fashion magazine articles that featured many clothes and accessories on a single page. The game was who could be the first to spot the best designed item on a page. To my delight, Alida’s mind was lightning fast and unerringly accurate even with her aged disabled body.

As a child I remember her own creativity also gaining expression with incredible cooking, gardening, piano playing, sewing, knitting, home decorating and throwing the best parties I have ever attended. She represented her university, Pretoria, in three sporting disciplines, Tennis, Hockey and Swimming and stayed athletic until the age of 40 when work and poor health started to take a toll. She was a gifted traveller and she returned with interesting items from her travels. She and Sam built three beautiful homes from scratch; in Johannesburg, London and Bowral, Australia. Sam & Alida’s work and living spaces with their creative use of space, eclectic taste in collectibles and a talent for combining the playful and the sublime, featured in radio programmes, press articles and documentaries throughout their lives.

Sadly the fulfilment of Alida’s many dreams for self expression and happiness were reaped over and over again by a devastating burden of mental illness as she struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder from the age of 12. Battling a monster with no name – she only received a diagnosis in the last months of her life – took a dark and heavy toll on her and the rest of her family.

Despite all the tragedies, she taught many people a lot of things, directly and indirectly – lessons that will live on in future generations.

Alida Medics Munich

Alida with her Neurosurgeon Dr. Andreas Frank standing on the right, plus the senior nurse and the hospital director at Isar Kliniken in Munich Summer 2008.

Oren  Alida German Alps Summer 2008

Alida with her grandson Oren in the German Alps, 2008. We pushed her 3.5kms around this lake, celebrating the success of her spinal surgery in Munich.

Alida in Alps

Alida – proud to take a few paces unassisted a week after an operation to relieve acute spinal stenosis. German Alps 2008.

Alida on the beach 01

Alida on the beach at ‘Seven Mile Beach Nature Reserve’ near Berrima in New South Wales Australia, 2009.

The Chicken Farm Bowral Burradoo

The wall in the breakfast room of Sam and Alida’s home in Bowral, affectionately known as ‘The Chicken Farm’. The embroidered image in the pine frame is by Alice Kettle.

Alida is survived by two sons; Ludwig and Konrad and two grandchildren.

Ludwig Haskins

Sam Haskins at NY Fashion Week

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

This week Lexus held their Eco-Challenge Winners event at Milk Gallery in New York. Sam’s work served to represent the photo/fashion world for what was in effect a one-night exhibition/party/prize winners celebration and of course the presentation of a new vehicle. We printed big poster like prints on heavyweight banner material and fixed them straight to the walls.

Milk Made Site sep 2012

Stable Love by Sam Haskins 01

Milk Lexus Sam Haskins 01

Milk Lexus Sam Haskins 02

Below are three images from the show

Kate Pout from Cowboy Kate by Sam Haskins

Cowboy Kate Gun Belt by Sam Haskins 2 Hands 900

Apprentice by Sam Haskins from Cowboy Kate

Marc Jacobs draws inspiration from Sam Haskins’ for the FW 2012 show?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

It is simply a fact that Sam’s seminal books from the 60′s; Five Girls, Cowboy Kate and November Girl are a constant source of inspiration to the fashion and glamour world. Not just other photographers but fashion designers, pop singers, cinematographers, make-up artists, illustrators and frequently graphic designers and painters keep gravitating back to the elusive resonance of those images.

Vivi Monster HatMonster Hat from ‘Cowboy Kate and Other Stories’ by Sam Haskins

Of course I cannot prove it – in the absence of a credit from Mr Jacobs – but it looks very much as though the Marc Jacobs Fall Winter 2012 collection presented in New York this week drew inspiration from the other famous hat featured in Sam’s work from the sixties, the ‘Big Hat’ from ‘Other Stories’ in ‘Cowboy Kate & Other Stories’ (1964).

Marc Jabobs does Sam s big hat 02Mark Jacobs giant hats AW2012 NY

Marc Jabobs does Sam s big hat
Mark Jacobs giant hats AW2012 NY

For the record I really love these hats and the clothes – absolutely beautiful

Of course Mr Jacobs would be different! Last year it seemed as though the whole fashion world rediscovered Cowboy Kate’s big floppy black hat. It started with the Tommy Hilfiger collection and spread like wildfire. The cover of Cowboy Kate is one of the most referenced images in fashion photography but last year the fashion designers took it to a new level and went mad for the black floppy hat that epitomised the sixties and tapped into the essence of Kate. But for Jacobs it wasn’t mad enough. It looks to me as though he spotted the brilliant caprice of the big hat in the field and turned it into the most talked about accessory at Fashion Week (FW2012 NY). This, very nearly 50 years after the photograph was taken next to Sam and Alida’s home in South Africa.

The hat icons from Cowboy Kate are not the only big hats from Sam’s work. The shot below is from the 70s when Sam had a studio just off the King’s Road in London. See the end of this post for the big hat from Five Girls.

Lindy Big Hat by Sam Haskins
Sam Haskins 70s

Marc Jabobs does Sam s big hat 09
Mark Jacobs giant hats AW2012 NY

Marc Jabobs does Sam s big hat 08
Mark Jacobs giant hats AW2012 NY

Below are examples, over the years, of influence drawn from the more famous Cowboy Kate hat – the wonderful black suede hat on the cover of Cowboy Kate. Rather than Kate having had her time in the sixties – Sam’s work is growing in stature and importance with each passing year. Successive generations of photographers hunting for the elusive definitive contemporary ‘face’ keep returning to the unique mix of liberation and style – not to mention cutting edge photography – that Sam crafted into his sequence of books while working in the obscurity of a downtown industrial building in Johannesburg during the sixties.

Kate Kate Cover by Sam Haskins
Cover shot from ‘Cowboy Kate & Other Stories’ by Sam Haskins

While his two main heroes, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn are more elevated by the art establishment, it is important to note that Sam’s work is more heavily referenced by photographers living and working today than either of his heroes.

Sam Haskins influence David Bailey 1965 i1
David Bailey (1965)

Madonna movie 01 frame 04
Madonna by Tom Munro – see the January 2009 entry of this blog for Sam’s thoughts about theft vs influence. To understand just how in love Madonna is with Cowboy Kate have a look at this video.

Madonna UK Elle CoverMadonna as Cowboy Kate by Tom Munro

Rankin does Kate 01
Rankin, one of the gracious few, has gone on record citing Sam as an influence

Sam Haskins Kate rip off 1965
God knows why Playboy produced this cover – a year after Cowboy Kate was published – when they could have had Sam shoot for them?

Talking of heroes and influence. It is interesting to note that Penn’s image of Picasso with the hat casting a shadow over one eye predated Sam’s work on Cowboy Kate – by about 6 years!

PICASSO CANNES 1957 Irving PennIrving Penn portrait of Picasso, 1957

And so it goes on, we all stand on the shoulders of giants. All of us!

And to prove the point here is another mad hat inspiration this time from Marcel Marceau referenced by Sam in ‘Five Girls’ (1962)

Shirly Beljon Dead Flower hat 3
Shirley from Five Girls by Sam Haskins

Marcel Marceau 01
Marcel Marceau

As an amusing footnote to this post – I thought it’s worth mentioning the origins of the hats in Cowboy Kate. Although on a smaller scale than America, South Africa benefitted from skilled German emigration in the 30s & 40s. The suede hat on the cover of Kate came from such a family, the Armbrecht’s as did the suede slacks featured in Kate. The ‘big hat’ however was produced by the most junior member of Sam’s studio staff, a teenage typist/receptionist, who designed and produced the hat without prompting. She presented her bold capricious creation to Sam who instantly organised a shoot to honour the home grown prop. I hope that she is still alive to read this post.


Update: February 19th 2012

In reviewing the blog post that follows the above news driven story I revisited the work of Jean-Loup Sieff and feel that he should also get a credit for possibly influencing Marc Jacobs Feb 2012 show in NY.

The gorgeous fur!? and the oversize forms!? – see the following delicious shots from the French master photographer, Sieff.

These images give me the opportunity to draw attention – quite apart from the possible influence on Mr Jacobs – to three critical factors that contribute to the joy and mastery of these Sieff photographs. A. They are self styled. This is from an era when photographers or members of their immediate staff played a key independent creatively role in fashion styling. In other words magazine appointed stylists had not yet moved into the positions of immense power that they hold today. B. These images combined high style and fun! Remember fun? C. They celebrate the control and beauty of sculpted studio lighting. This was an era when photographers had their own studios – instead of barrelling through rented spaces, in-and-out in a few hours. They had time, and they used it wisely.

Jean Loup Sieff Big Hat 01 460Jean-Loup Sieff

Jean Loup Sieff Big Hat 02 460Jean-Loup Sieff

Cowboy Kate celebrates New York Fashion Week with Amex

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

The American Express VIP hospitality lounge at Milk Studios has a fashion themed edit of Cowboy Kate prints on display for Fashion Week NY February 2012.

Kate Pout by Sam Haskins 462

Kate Dressing by Sam Haskins 462

Kate s Desk by Sam Haskins 462

Kate Dressing Mirror by Sam Haskins 462

Press and print collectors should contact Song Chong