On the cover of her 1995 album, Post, Björk stands in a London street, her pale skin and jet-black hair contrasting sharply with the vivid colours of a Japanese manga market. In reference to the album’s name — which was inspired by the Icelandic singer’s need to communicate with friends and family back home — she wears a Royal Mail airmail-inspired jacket, specially made from envelope paper, by the avant-garde designer Hussein Chalayan.
The photographer was Stéphane Sednaoui, whose equal ease in the worlds of fashion and music suited the multidisciplinary approach of 1990’s pop culture beautifully. The son of a photographic agent (Yannick Morisot) and nephew of a painter and jazz musician (Evelyne Morisot and David Earle Johnson), Sednaoui — whose name comes from his Egyptian grandfather — had made a name for himself in the 1980s as the face of Jean-Paul Gaultier; a casting agent (for William Klein’s eccentric docufiction Mode in France); and a photojournalist (his photographs of the Romanian Revolution in 1989 appeared in Libération, as would his later images of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001).
Stéphane Sednaoui (b. 1963) Bjork, Post Album, 1995. Pigment print mounted on aluminium. 47 1/4 × 47 1/4 in. (120 × 120 cm.). Estimate: €20,000–30,000. This photograph and the one above are offered in Photographs, Icons & Style sale in Paris on 30 June
As a photographer, Sednaoui also shot portraits of musicians (including Kurt Cobain), fashion stories (for Vogue Italia), and features for The Face (his découpage story Fashion Heroes, featuring Gaultier, Alaia and Westwood alongside the models of the decade was singled out in 1990 at the International Festival of Fashion Photography).
Sednaoui’s best-known works, however, are the album covers and videos he created and directed throughout the 1990s and, to a lesser extent, afterwards, which helped to establish bands and singers including Red Hot Chili Peppers (‘Give It Away’), U2 (‘Mysterious Ways’), Madonna (‘Fever’) and Björk (‘Big Time Sensuality’ — made to promote a remix from the singer’s 1993 album, Debut).
The latter, in which Björk improvises on the back of a truck as it moves through the streets of New York, was shot in silvery black and white, with Björk in a white silk dress, and shows clearly the influence of Sednaoui’s mentor William Klein. Played in a loop on MTV, it is presented in spectacular fashion in the main hall of MoMA New York as part of its 2015 Björk retrospective, as well as being included in the DVD, The Work of Stéphane Sednaoui (Director’s Label, 2005). Sednaoui’s work can also currently be seen in The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier at the Grand Palais in Paris (until 3 August).
The photographer now focuses on fine art and cinematic projects and has exhibited in Paris, New York, Shanghai and Beijing.
Main image: Stéphane Sednaoui (b. 1963), Bjork, Big Time Sensuality, 1993. Pigment print mounted on aluminium. 23 5/8 × 35 1/2 in. (60 × 90 cm.) Estimate: €8,000–12,000
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