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.
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.