Extra special thanks to Dara Block, our savvy editor-at-large in Los Angeles, who searched her considerable archive of magazines and came up with a description of Sofia Coppola's most treasured clipping, a photograph of Charlotte Rampling by Helmut Newton that continues to inspire Sofia to this day. I hope that you will enjoy reading Dara's impressions of this iconic image and Sofia's feelings for it.
I don't know about you, but whenever I read Vogue US, I always immediately skip the pages to see who is the guest writer for the nostalgia section of the magazine. I remember back in October 2003 I was so excited to discover that Sofia Coppola was the mystery writer for that issue. I found it so thrilling to learn that when Sofia was growing up, she often felt that magazines were her link to the rest of the world....
In this particular article, Sofia Coppola discusses her teenage life in Napa Valley and how she would post her favorite Vogue images to her wall for inspiration. One of those photographs posted on her wall was Helmut Newton's iconic 1974 Vogue portrait of a nude, reclining Charlotte Rampling. To Sofia, that image of a naked Charlotte Rampling seemed to be the ultimate portrait of a woman. In the article, Sofia states: "I like photos that have a story to them. This picture could almost be a still from a film: It makes me think about what just happened and what will happen next. There's something going on between her and the photographer, the way he's looking at her and she's looking back at him. She's so striking and cool, and you can tell she's smart. Who doesn't want to be that?" I think Sofia's analysis of that Charlotte Rampling photo is articulated beautifully... she really understands the true meaning behind this provocative image. It is obvious what a deep impression that Helmut Newton photograph has made on her life.
It was not just this photo of Rampling that Sofia Coppola grew up admiring, but also other photos from iconic women like Tina Chow, Paloma Picasso, and Anjelica Huston. Sofia cleverly states in the article: "I remember I met Anjelica when I was fourteen. She told me I would grow into my nose, which I appreciated." I have always admired Sofia's approach towards beauty and how she always accepted herself for who she is... she has never fallen into that terrible Hollywood trap of trying to be someone she was not.
Sofia also mentions how her mom encouraged her at such a young age to start collecting art. Her first piece was a William Klein photo of a woman smoking with roses on her hat, which was actually given to her as a gift by her mother. To this day, Sofia is still a passionate art collector. Her favorite pieces in her collection are by Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Richard Prince, Takashi Homma, Larry Sultan, and Elizabeth Peyton, to name just a few. Sofia then discusses how she spent most of her 20s slowly trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. She mentions going to art school, studying painting, getting into photography, and then starting a clothing line, she dabbled in costume design as well. Eventually, all this led her to making her first short film, Lick the Star. About finding her calling, Sofia states: "Making movies combines so many different areas that I like, and it's always really challenging. I enjoy the visual aspect, working with the cinematographer and the costume designer. I get involved in all those details." She then goes on to talk about how the idea of girls and women as photography subjects will always interest her as a filmmaker. She is very much intrigued by female characters trying to find their identity and individuality... just look to films like The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, and Marie Antoinette... very much a common theme in her work.
By the end of the article, Sofia claims that when she is working on a film she loves to put together books of visual concepts even if she has no idea of how she will relate it to her final project. I think Sofia closes her article brilliantly by saying: "I still love looking at magazines and tearing pages out, and I still have that Charlotte Rampling picture on my wall." It is so refreshing to know that Sofia hasn't changed much... she will always be that same teenage girl growing up in Napa Valley admiring the beauty and art of fashion magazines... it seems like she was always so cool right from the start!
[Editor's note: Sofia also shares in the article, "I tried to buy the Rampling photo a few years ago, but it was so expensive!" She is absolutely right, here are a few details about one of the prints from the shoot which was offered for sale recently:
Charlotte Rampling at the Hotel Nord Pinus II, Arles, 1973.
Oversized gelatin silver print, printed later.
62 1/2 x 42 5/8 in. (158.8 x 108.3 cm).
Titled, dated, numbered 2/3 in ink and estate credit stamp on the reverse of the aluminum flush-mount.
Sofia Coppola in "I Wanna Be Like You" for Vogue US © 2003 Condé Nast. All Rights Reserved.
Charlotte Rampling photograph © 1974 Helmut Newton. All Rights Reserved.