I met the fab Mary Russell at Vogue, my first New York magazine job as a young designer (21) on her section called Vogue’s View. She had a fab office at the other end of the hall and I remember her telling stories about Paris or this photographer or that model. I was enthralled. She was always such fun and very accepting of this young kid from Texas who didn’t know ANYTHING. Mary proved to be instrumental in my magazine career at the time. After leaving Vogue (ahem, not my choice, but that’s another story…) Mary introduced me to Charles Churchward, who along with Ruth Ansel took me to Vanity Fair, after a brief stop at House & Garden, when it was being rebooted and that really changed my life.
Fast forward to my life as an artist, and I’ve been back in touch with Mary lately. I saw her a few years ago in Miami where she lives part time but we keep in touch, like most people these days, on Facebook. She’s the same, people don’t really change. I always knew she was a photographer, and a good one. It’s that KEEN EYE, once you’ve worked visualizing stories, it’s not so hard to DIY, really. Now she’s opening up her archive and more importantly is telling stories now from her exciting life in the new T Magazine. These are personal photos Mary shot, just for herself and you can see her subjects, often her friends, peeps like Rudolf Nureyev, Jane Fonda, Grace Jones, the Rolling Stones and on and on. She shot in black and white (Vogue’s View was also in black and white, btw, which was standard well into the 80s) Mary still shoots pictures and divides her time between Paris and Miami. She tells T:
“I had always loved clothes and fashion, and wanted to get a job at a fashion magazine. [Diana] Vreeland called Glamour magazine’s fashion editor and told her to hire Russell because “this girl looks the part, speaks French, is willing to do anything and is ready to work for next to nothing.” In the mid-’60s, Russell opened a small Glamour magazine office on the Place du Palais Bourbon in Paris. “I was paid a pittance, but I managed to pull myself together — black-black-black clothes, perfect grooming and a good French haircut.”
Throughout the next three decades, Russell styled photo shoots for renowned fashion photographers like David Bailey, Helmut Newton, Lord Snowdon and Steven Meisel. She reported on the high life in Europe. She was editor in chief of the short-lived Taxi magazine. And she played as hard as she worked. Her romantic conquests included Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata, the owner of an Italian racing team whose financier father had founded the Venice Film Festival, and Gunter Sachs, the undisputed king of the playboys, before he married Brigitte Bardot. “Europe was filled with fabulous, well-off bachelors in the ’60s and ’70s. I got to know a few of them.”
She did and isn’t shy about telling tales. Mary is currently putting together a book of her images and letters, which will no doubt be juicy! To see more pics and read more dirt in T magazine, go here. And just look at these pictures and imagine. What a gal! What a life!
(Photos, Mary Russell: via The New York Times)