Carinthia West is a photographer who has grown up in the presence of, and been friends with, some of the 20th century's greatest names from music, film and society. Anjelica Huston, Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Ronnie Wood, Robin Williams, Paul Getty Jnr, Neil Young, Helen Mirren, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, James Taylor, King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan, are just a few of those she photographed at both casual and poignant moments in their lives.
Armed with her beloved Canon camera, with it’s “lucky” red strap, she traveled through the iconic years of the 1970’s, as Muse magazine wrote; "a free spirit, blissfully unaware that she was candidly recording icons and iconic moments of the times,". For many years, while West pursued other talents, thousands of slides and negatives languished in shoe boxes until she started to look at them again, and transfer them from her kitchen table to the walls of galleries. She has now had several successful exhibitions, first at the prestigious Dimbola Museum in the Isle of Wight, then London’s Library Space, and recently at the San Francisco Art Exchange, America’s pioneering rock and roll photography gallery. Included among the images are pensive unposed portraits of Mick Jagger; Monty Python’s Eric Idle playing guitar with Ronnie Wood; Sissy Spacek and Shelly Duvall on the film set of Robert Altman’s Three Women; Bonnie Raitt playing volley ball with friends, Oprah Winfrey on the set of The Colour Purple; Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood in a Malibu hospital awaiting the birth of Ronnie’s first child, and the photos she took from the sidelines of the Pink Floyd’s legendary cover shoot for the album Animals. In 36 frames she chronicled the massive inflatable pig, hoisted high above London’s Battersea Power Station, then breaking free of the cables that kept it in place, threatening air traffic, then flying away (to land in a field in Kent)... In the words of Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason:
"It was fortuitous that Carinthia was there on the day we shot the Animals cover because when the pig shook off its moorings and flew away there was an excellent photographer present to record it!"
The proposed documentary, Hanging Out, about the life and times of Carinthia West, is being produced and directed by Robert Dowling, “It has been a thrill working on this show with Carinthia,” said Dowling, “Ever since we were introduced by a mutual friend, exploring Carinthia’s rare archive has been a rich adventure filled with the warmth of the relationships that surround her. It’s clear she has many friends who care a great deal about her and Carinthia’s photos testify to the depth of that genuine caring. So many photographers have lost their negatives, or in some cases destroyed them. In Carinthia’s case she has kept a record of her life spanning forty three years.”
Carinthia’s father, General Sir Michael West, was the British representative of NATO in Washington, DC during the Kennedy Years. An early memory as a young girl was sitting next to Jacqueline Kennedy as her parents’ dinner guest. In the 60’s she drove across America with her parents, which she believes was the inspiration for a love of landscape and the open road. In the 70s and 80s she modeled, acted and “hung out” with friends and family, constantly taking photographs, whether on a London or New York street, a Californian beach, a film set, or a rock star’s drawing room . As a model, she was photographed by the likes of David Bailey, Patrick Lichfield, and Mario Testino, appearing in everything from award-winning fashion editorials to album covers like Robert Palmer’s Pressure Drop. She also appeared in various films, including the BBC’s Crime and Punishment with John Hurt, John Cassavette’s Husbands and the classic Beatles parody, The Rutles, All You Need is Cash, starring George Harrison, Mick & Bianca Jagger, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, John Belushi and other Saturday Night Live cast members. She is perhaps best known as a journalist specializing in interviews, travel, lifestyle and health, and has written for Marie-Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Tatler, the Telegraph, the Independent, Saga, and many other publications.
Both as a self confessed ‘army brat’ and a travel writer, Carinthia was blessed with many opportunities to explore the globe. "I took my beloved Canon everywhere I went,” she says. “I began to see life itself as a camera lens... the ever-changing view through different lenses, choosing whether to focus close or far away, seemed to give me an underlying philosophy for life."
CARINTHIA WEST will be part of a group exhibition with PATTIE BOYD & HENRY DILTZ opening September 18 at Hilton | Asmus Contemporary.