michael Jack­son photo auc­tion

Parisian pho­tog­ra­pher Arno Bani is auc­tion­ing 90 un­seen pic­tures of the King of Pop, taken in 1999 sup­pos­edly for his In­vin­ci­ble al­bum.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By KEE HUA CHEE

OF course an­other pic­ture of Michael Jack­son smirk­ing in sun­glasses or do­ing the moon­walk is so ho-hum ... un­less he is preen­ing in his undies. But Arno Bani’s shots are rev­o­lu­tion­ary enough to get a world ac­cus­tomed to Michael Jack­son’s idio­syn­cra­sies sit up and look again.

Bani’s pho­to­graphs taken 11 years ago show a younger Jack­son, al­though the singer had looked ex­actly the same for the past quar­ter cen­tury till his sad demise in June 2009. The same flaw­less, im­pec­ca­bly pan­caked face, the dis­con­cert­ingly big, heav­ily-lined, doe eyes and ex­quis­ite cleft chin that owed more to scalpel than na­ture. A face so sculpted, per­fected and blood­lessly pale you would be for­given if at first glance you thought these were pho­tos of store man­nequins. If the cheek­bones were any higher they would cover his eyes.

In Bani’s col­lec­tion, there is one im­age show­ing Jack­son with one of his closed eyes painted with blue glit­ter. This “Blue-eyed Michael” is vin­tage Jack­son in terms of drama, glitz and glit­ter – per­son­i­fy­ing a life lived in front of the cam­era. This pic­ture is child-like, be­guil­ing and in­no­cent though off­set by a clas­sic jacket sprin­kled with tiny cir­cles, some of them mir­rored – per­chance to re­flect his Man In The Mir­ror hit. The most dra­matic and sen­sa­tional is the Caped Michael im­age show­ing his su­per smooth face, painted brows and sexy, slightly droopy eyes star­ing in­tensely at the cam­era and wrapped in a golden, quilted cloak. This Pharaoh look is at once mag­nif­i­cent and de­press­ing. The golden cape looks fan­tas­ti­cally ma­jes­tic and gor­geous with an other-worldly aura but in hind­sight, this qual­ity could also be in­ferred as fu­ner­ary.

Face on the cover

Once upon a time, in the land of mu­sic, moon­walk­ing and make­be­lieve, there lived a sad man-boy whose dear­est wish was to never grow up. With all his might and mil­lions, he sought to es­cape the rav­ages of time be­hind a fa­cade of se­quins, make-up, daz­zling dance steps and finely-crafted cos­tumes that mes­merised the world.

One day in April 1999, he was in a pala­tial bed­room in a grand London ho­tel when he saw the cover of Style, the Sun­day Times mag­a­zine. To him, the face on the cover was sub­lime in its lu­mi­nos­ity and sex­less­ness, a look he had strived to achieve as few red-blooded men wore as much make-up as he did. The Style cover showed a face plas­tered with sil­very, shiny pow­der, irides­cent and mutely im­pas­sive and im­pres­sive with its lack of ex­pres­sion. Wear­ing a stiff, golden shawl, the model re­sem­bled a byzan­tine Madonna.

It was the an­drog­y­nous beauty that floored Michael Jack­son. “This is it!” he must have ex­claimed as he vi­su­alised him­self in sim­i­lar get-up. The face on the cover be­longed to Astrid Munoz, one of the first Lati­nas to break through as a model in Paris back in 1995. In 2006, Hello Spain mag­a­zine ranked her as one of the world’s most beau­ti­ful women.

Michael Jack­son quickly sum­moned the cre­ator of this spell­bind­ing im­age – an un­known 23year-old Parisian pho­tog­ra­pher named Arno Bani. The tal­ented Bano was dis­cov­ered by Is­abella Blow – Sun­day Times edi­tor, prophet­ess of fashion, and dis­cov­erer of mad hat­ter Philip Treacy, model So­phie Dahl and de­signer Alexan­der McQueen.

Bani was sum­moned to the Wal­dorf As­to­ria New York. Jack­son and him con­nected in­stantly, like two kids.

“The im­ages were heav­ily styled and not spon­ta­neous but that was Michael,” says Bani. “Ev­ery­thing had to be per­fect. I was given carte blanche to come up with ideas. I was young, just turned 23, but he was more of a kid than I was. He asked me to dream, to play with haute cou­ture, it was like solv­ing a jig­saw puz­zle.”

Ly­ing on their stom­achs on the car­pet of the suite, the pair set about ex­plor­ing Bani’s cat­a­logue of pho­tos. Bani would pho­to­graph the singer for the al­bum cover of In­vin­ci­ble and Jack­son would be like the phan­tas­magor­i­cal fig­ure on the cover of Style mag­a­zine.

So be­gan two months of hyper, in­ter­ac­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween a fas­ci­nated pho­tog­ra­pher and a vet­eran en­ter­tainer in an at­mos­phere of play­ful eu­pho­ria.

“I lived in a wak­ing dream,” re­calls Bani. “I played You Are Not Alone a mil­lion times.”

The shoot in Paris was con­ducted in ut­most se­crecy and Jack­son posed over 700 times. The short cropped hair made Jack­son seemed even more waif-like and the in­ci­sively low-cut neck­line seemed like a take on YSL’s Le Smok­ing Jacket for women, worn with noth­ing in­side.

But in the end, de­spite the megas­tar call­ing up Bani to say how much he loved the pho­tos, they were not used for In­vin­ci­ble – Jack­son’s 10th and last stu­dio al­bum re­leased in his life­time.

The al­bum cover art turned out to be a sim­ple, straight­for­ward closeup pic­ture of the man. ■ On Dec 13 in Paris, Pierre Bergé & As­so­ci­ates will auc­tion 90 un­pub­lished im­ages of Michael Jack­son. The col­lec­tion by Arno Bani com­prises four unique por­traits (210cm x 166.7cm); 55 pho­to­graphic prints (6cm x 7cm); and 31 con­tact sheets, some of them an­no­tated by Jack­son him­self. Prices start at €1,000 (RM4,380) for each of the four large prints, and €500 (RM2,190) for each 6x7 print and each con­tact sheet.

Man in the glit­ter: Pho­tog­ra­pher Arno Bani’s ‘Blue-eyed Michael’ is vin­tage Jack­son in terms of drama, glitz and glit­ter – per­son­i­fy­ing a life lived in front of the cam­era.

Three of the 90 pho­tos of the King of Pop taken in 1999 by French pho­tog­ra­pher Arno Bani. Kept in cold stor­age till now, Pierre Berge & As­so­ci­ates will auc­tion these one­off pho­tos on Dec 13 in Paris.

French pho­tog­ra­pher Arno Bani stand­ing next to his Caped Michael.

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