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PARIS — Hedi Slimane, whose first two books of photography depicted desolate Berlin parks, tangles of speaker cable and grimy stairwells, tackled a much more complex, slippery and alive subject for his third: Pete Doherty.
In fact, Slimane got so accustomed to the train-wreck antics of the 25-year-old rock deity — anointed “Junkie Pete” by London’s tabloids — that he simply shrugged on Monday when asked about all the canceled gigs and the controversy forever swirling around the Babyshambles frontman, from his arrests and rehab to his romantic links to model Kate Moss.
“He’s a bit victimized by the media,” Slimane said over espresso at the Cafe Flore here, waving off all questions about the latter subjects. “In a way, this book is really for the fans. He has a really, really strong fan base. They really go for the music. They don’t care about the rest.”
To be sure, “London: Birth of a Cult,” due out next month by Steidl and Karl Lagerfeld’s 7L imprint, is the work of a diehard fan of Doherty’s music, poetry and sense of style. Slimane actually tried to include Doherty, then with The Libertines, in his last book, “Stage,” which illuminated the scripted nature of rock’s rituals.
But Doherty’s methods are far from planned. Slimane lauds him as the ultimate rock icon, from his songwriting prowess and impromptu concerts to his battle with crack addiction and famous girlfriends. “It’s almost as if he invented the checklist,” he quipped.
While Slimane’s depiction of Doherty is a sympathetic one, the designer didn’t turn his lens away from his self-destructive, excessive side. “He was really, really open,” Slimane related. “When you document someone like him, it’s all about trust.”
Still, what emerges is a visual diary, over 164 stark black-and-white pages, of someone whose electrifying performances prove that he “was born to be on stage” — fashion instincts included.
Although Slimane has showered Doherty with Dior Homme, as he has countless other rock stars, “you don’t dress him,” he explained. “To start with, he has the best style. He improvises in such an incredible way that everything becomes his clothes right away.”