Madonna Was Alphabet City’s Cinderella
“These are pictures that I’ve had sitting around in my archives for thirty years—I’ve never really felt like they were relevant until now,” explained New York-based photographer Richard Corman. He’s talking about the series of shoots he did with Madonna back in 1983, when he was “just a guy who was running around with Keith Haring and Basquiat” and the original Material Girl was “kind of a deity downtown, on her own block.”
Tonight at Milk Studios, Corman will unveil Madonna NYC83—an exhibition consisting of images he took of a young Madonna in her Alphabet City flat (“The neighborhood was absolutely a ghetto back then”), glamming it up for the camera as a modern-day Cinderella in “this incredible vintage dress she probably bought for four dollars,” or posing on her roof in ripped-up denim and a boom box in hand.
“Ironically, I met her through my mother, of all places,” recalled Corman. “She had been casting The Last Temptation of Christ with Martin Scorsese, and she called me and said, ‘Look. This woman walked in and she is an absolute original.’ I called Madonna twenty minutes later.”
What transpired were five or six shoots, all in a brief period of time, that capture the moment just before Madonna hit it big. “I think she was beginning to develop an image,” said Corman. “But she had that thing that iconic people in front of the camera have: It isn’t necessarily about beauty; it’s just a charisma.”
So why does he feel these images are so resonant now? “Because everybody that I see walking down the street reminds me of the ’80s—whether I’m walking into Opening Ceremony or VFiles or Urban Outfitters,” exclaimed Corman. “These are the sweaters, this is the denim. I mean, the way she did her hair with the dark hair and the blond streaks—people are going in to have this done. Those cat-eyes and that red mouth. And her absolute beauty and jewelry. Everything about her style,” he explained. “But it’s her attitude that feels now. She was always fearless and provocative. There were no boundaries with her, and she had this wonderfully ruthless ambition to make it in the boldest way. And the other thing that makes [the photos] relevant is that she’s more than relevant today. She’s as hot now as she’s ever been.”
Madonna NYC83 will run through December 15 at Milk Gallery.