Being there: Gavin Bond goes backstage with the biggest names in 90s fashion

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The photographer’s first solo exhibition delves into his archive, presenting unseen images from a time when the supermodel ruled all

In 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, photographer Gavin Bond left New York City. Moving to a log cabin in the woods, and finding himself with rather more time on his hands than usual, the photographer finally did something that he had been meaning to do for years: he began cataloguing his earliest work.

“It was literally thousands and thousands of negatives in ruled folders,” Bond recalls. “I was looking at rolls of film that I hadn’t seen in thirty years, but slowly I edited them down. When I got to the point that I thought it was good enough, I said ‘okay, well, now what do I do?’”. In the end, Bond decided that what he needed was an exhibition.

Gavin Bond, Shalom and Kristen dancing, Valentino, Paris, 1995

Now, two years later, a presentation of this rediscovered work is about to come to fruition. On show at Hamiltons Gallery in London from 15 September, Gavin Bond: Being There presents many of the images uncovered by the photographer during the pandemic. With unfettered backstage access to the biggest designers of the time, Bond’s images offer a nostalgic look at a time when the supermodel ruled all, showcasing notorious fashion ‘moments’ of the 1990s.

Bond started out studying fashion design at Central Saint Martins. “By chance, I went backstage at a Vivienne Westwood show and I really got the bug for photography,” he says. His photographs caught the fashion designer’s eye. “She invited me back the following season to shoot for her and those images ended up being in a brochure that she made. From there I then slowly started to get commissions – I suppose my first commercial foray into photography was within this world of backstage.”

Gavin Bond, Claudia Running, Versace Haute Couture, Paris, 1998
Claudia, Karl & Giles Dufor, Chanel Couture, Paris, 1994

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I think these are some of my best pictures. I was fortunate enough to be photographing one of the greatest times ever in fashion.”

Bond’s world of backstage, a world in which Kate Moss sips champagne and Carla Bruni smokes cigarettes in Valentino gowns, is no more. The age of the supermodel is over – and Bond was one of few there to document it. “People would often shoot the hair and makeup while the models were getting ready,” he recalls. “But when the actual show began, the photographer’s tended to be kicked out. But, for whatever reason, perhaps because at the beginning I was granted access by Vivienne, I was allowed to stay.”

From this point, Bond recalls, his innocence earned him a kind of familiarity with the iconic models he photographed. This, in turn, allowed him to capture moments which might otherwise have been missed. However, despite the business backstage, Bond says his images were never taken in haste. Working with a medium format camera, he had little choice but to be considered in his approach.

Gavin Bond, Gianni, Linda & Claudia, Versace Haute Couture, Paris, 1998

“That’s how I love to shoot,” he says. “There was a point in my career where I was doing all these massive productions and these big sets and loads of lights, and I still do that for commercial jobs, but if people say ‘how do you like shooting the most?’, it’s always those authentic moments, that more pure kind of photography.”

Bond’s career has now, he says, almost come full circle. Following his fortunate lockdown discovery, he has relished the opportunity to reconnect with – and finally display for the first time – some of his earliest work. “It’s exciting and it’s weird,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I think these are some of my best pictures. I don’t know whether it’s just because I wasn’t overthinking, or because I was just in the moment. I was just fortunate enough to be photographing one of the greatest times ever in fashion.”

Gavin Bond: Being There is on show at Hamiltons Gallery from 15 September – 29 October 2022.