LONDON — Corinne Day, the British photographer whose raw, documentary-style images helped propel Kate Moss to fame, died on Friday. She was 45.
Day had been suffering from a brain tumor, which had recently returned since she was first diagnosed with the condition in 1996. Last year, Day’s friends raised money to fund treatment for her illness in the U.S. by selling prints of images Day shot of Moss. However, according to British press reports, the treatment was unsuccessful and Day returned to the U.K. earlier this year.
Her death was revealed in a statement posted on the photographer’s Web site, corinneday.co.uk, and was confirmed by Day’s agent.
Day began her career as a model, but soon started photographing her model colleagues off duty. Her breakthrough came with the now-famous pictures she shot of a 15-year-old Moss for British magazine The Face in 1990. The shots depicted Moss running naked on an English beach, and wrinkling her nose at the camera, wearing an Indian headdress. “Kate was 15 going on 18,” Day told WWD in 2006, when an exhibition of the images went on show at London’s Gimpel Fils gallery. “A lot of 15-year-old girls wouldn’t have developed a personality by then, but Kate was always a bit grown-up for her age — her personality is what made her so successful.”
Day went on to shoot for British Vogue, but her images caused much controversy in 1993 when a shoot for the magazine featuring Moss in a bare apartment wearing childlike underwear contributed to the coining of the term “heroin chic.”
“People called it grunge and heroin chic, but there was a naïveté to our work together then,” Day said in 2006.
Franca Sozzani, editor of Italian Vogue, who worked regularly with Day, said the photographer “stood apart from the crowd.” “She wasn’t into the richness, the ostentation, the grandeur of fashion,” Sozzani added. “She just wasn’t attracted to it. Her images were the opposite of that — they were all about the poor, the shabby. That was her world. She preferred to focus on the more personal, intimate side. She was easy to work with — never demanding. Her approach was always simple.”
Day shot the spring 1994 Miu Miu ad campaign featuring model Rosemary Ferguson lying on an unmade bed, and Sozzani said those images really captured the photographer’s aesthetic. Miuccia Prada was among the first, along with Barneys New York, to use Day for an ad campaign. “It was in the days when Miuccia was doing bad taste and wanted a new, fresh perspective,” Sozzani added.
Marc Jacobs, speaking ahead of the “Model as Muse’” exhibition at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2008, said Day’s images of Moss, along with Juergen Teller’s, “changed fashion.” “That was a moment when we looked at beauty and glamour in a different way,” said Jacobs.
Following the heroin chic furor in the Nineties, Day turned to documentary photography, and in 2000 exhibited images of herself undergoing surgery for her initial brain tumor, as part of her show “Diary.” In recent years, she had returned to fashion photography, and regularly shot for Vogue in the U.K., Italy and Japan.
A funeral service will be held for Day in Buckinghamshire, England, on Friday. She is survived by her husband, filmmaker Mark Szaszy.