A u s t i n Y o u n
Back in the summer of 1995 I happened to stumble upon a magazine with the
most stunning front cover photo of Debbie Harry I'd ever seen. I hadn't seen or
heard of this magazine "Surface" before, although it was imported from
America. It was fate that I happened to be in London that day and saw it. I
bought 4 copies being such a big fan of Blondie/Debbie Harry and with the
excitement of those pictures inside I was in heaven. During the rest of 1995 the
start of a Blondie revival was emerging with the release of compilations, remix
albums and remix singles. Two of the photos featured in the "Surface"
magazine were used for the remix singles CD covers which I absolutely loved.....
Those photos were taken by a very talented guy called Austin Young.
Years later I put together this Blondie site and one of the first things I
uploaded was "Surface" magazine. More because of the photo's than
anything else. What surprised me a year later was an email I received from the
man himself, Austin Young. Since then I've been able to look through his work
which can be seen at www.austinyoung.com and stay in touch with him, one of the
great things about the internet, who ever you are and where ever you live you
can be reached if you want to be.
Being an artist myself, I was really interested in Austin and his work. His approach
is so fresh, so colorful and so unique. Every image I see that he's
done looks like it was a labour of love to accomplish. I was also interested in
the story behind the Debbie shoot and if there were any other images laying
about that could be used as a feature on this site and to show all you guys what
a talent this man is!!!
Below is Austin's story together with some exclusive images I commissioned him
to do for this site.
PLEASE NOTE: these images were paid for use on this site
only. They are not to be used on any other site or used in any other way!
Austin's Own Words
I quit studying painting in 1988 and began my photo career in New
York. Portraits were and are my favorite form of art. I had worked
with some of my favorite people.... Deee-lite,
Leigh Bowery, Ru Paul, The "Lady" Bunny, but photographing Debbie
Harry was the BIGGEST thing I had ever done. This felt like a
pivotal moment for me.
My visionary previous
cover of Lady Kier
Paula Cole Album
Was I tapping into some trend before it happened?
(I was sure all my troubles
would now be over AND that , if I proved myself by making mind-blowing
photos of Ms. Harry, my career would finally take off, and I
would be rolling in glamorous and famous dough.
I'd shop endlessly and pay all my bills).
I was given NO money for the shoot.
Recently transplanted to San Francisco, Richard and Riley from
Surface Magazine, with whom I was friends with, gave me full freedom
to do what I wanted with this session. (I created the treatment to the Surface logo with bicycle reflectors
to go with the image, and I had done the previous two covers of this
blossoming magazine, although this was to be my last).
I made sketches beforehand and pretty much had the entire thing
planned before I left for New York. I always do this before a shoot;
It's important to have a vision of what you're going to do.
(I would later look for these sketches, but after my current boyfriend
and I split up, I
burned all my notebooks and sold some of my favorite things, including
my entire new wave record collection from high school, Toto Coelo, Toyah,
Captain Sensible, etc.)
I went shopping with stylist, Jason Farrer, in New York to pick out
"When I pointed my camera at Debbie Harry,
she lit up and turned on."
This was my shoot: I wanted these photos to be perfect and when
things weren't going the way I liked - we were not
coming up with enough fabulous clothes for 8 different looks. I brought on another stylist,
Christopher Gordon, to see if two stylists could come up with the
picture I had in mind. And the photos turned out great!
Jason and I got the motorcycle racing gear at Pat Fields on St.
Marks Place (this was long before "Sex And the City" or the Soho store),
I knew this was the cover shot. I wanted to do something very iconic
and super pop. These "racing photos" were the only photos I took in
rest..... black and white.
I was nervous and scared. I am a HUGE Blondie fan!
And I _still_ get nervous before a shoot.)
A desire for perfection made me even _more_mental.
What the hell... I was young.
My goal was to make one of THE great photos of Debbie Harry.
I love her.
I wanted to make sure she was portrayed with glorious
sexiness like on the cover of "Autoamerican."
I was carrying a bunch of equipment, including a 9ft roll of white
paper and a portable background stand. I saw her across the street.
She looked lost. I called to her and we walked to my friends
She was sleepy - it was early in the morning... she took a nap while
we got ready. Hiromi Kobari's hair and makeup looked fantastic.
Everyone was civil that day. When I pointed my camera at Debbie Harry,
she lit up and turned on.
She is a great performer.
We had a long day of work.... with 8 different looks!
She was tired by the end and wanted to stop, but I begged her to go
This is the last
shot I took that day!
feathers next to egg
by David La Chapelle
My cat, Mighty Joe
Young, posed for
this shot after I
made him angry.
He's still around
but has less teeth.
Back in San Francisco, the end to this story was anti-climactic. I
do a lot of post work with my photos... airbrushing, montage, etc. I
worked hard and completed the photos for SURFACE. The magazine came
No one called about hiring me. My boyfriend left me. (I was going
through my Saturn return.) After seven years of doing photos, I quit.
I threw myself into writing songs on my guitar, and fantasized about
moving to Hawaii.
I'd taken a wrong turn somewhere and I was trying to get back to
myself. It was 6 months before I picked up my camera again. I
realized I had to change the way I measured success - to look
inside for inspiration and have no expectation for the outcome other
than my own pleasure and satisfaction.
There was no magic wand to wave and turn my pumpkin into a carriage.
It seems like a simple lesson, though I've had to relearn it a couple
more times, as it wasn't the last time a rug would be pulled out from
It must have been 8 months or so afterwards that Elektra records called
me to ask if they could use one of my images for the remixed "Union
City Blue" single in the US and UK. And shortly thereafter, Chrysalis
used the "racing photo" for the re-issued "Heart of Glass" single and a
poster (that went around the streets of London) for the UK. Chrysalis
later told me they felt it was partly due to my photograph plastered
around London that "Heart of Glass" climbed back up the charts.
A couple years later, David La Chapelle photographed Pam Anderson
coming out of an egg for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
Austin Young - making art with loving care....