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Siren’s Song


If the YBA movement—that’s Young British Artists, in case you weren’t gallery-hopping in the Saatchi-mad nineties—has a staff photographer, it’s a post held by Johnnie Shand Kydd, who’s shot everyone from Sam Taylor-Wood and Tracey Emin to Damien Hirst with Kate Moss. Many of those famous sitters, Emin and Taylor-Wood among them, came to Charing Cross last night to celebrate the lensman’s latest book, Siren City. And though those ladies are no doubt sirens (Taylor-Wood showed up with her new, 19-year-old fianc&233;, Aaron Johnson), it’s not a fellow artist whose song Shand Kydd heeded this time around: It’s the city of Naples.

“Whenever I find myself discussing Naples, I don’t feel like I am talking about bricks and mortar. The city’s an organism, almost human—like a very beautiful lover but with severe mental issues,” he said. So maybe a little bit more like his previous subjects than we first thought. All eyes were on the photographer as he described the city’s eerie, paganlike vibe (and, Emin noted, dark alleys and suspicious characters: “Were you ever frightened taking pictures in Naples?” she asked). With luminaries like Bella Freud, Earl Spencer (the late Princess Diana’s brother, and Shand Kydd’s stepbrother), and Agent Provocateur co-founder Serena Rees in attendance, we wondered if, post-Naples, a return to portraiture was in order. In terms of subject matter, the brass ring is still out there: “I would like to photograph Lucien Freud. He is a great, great painter and physically totally compelling.”
Siren City is available for purchase at

Dept. of Culture