Jean Shrimpton

The 60s. The vision painted of this decade is that of wonderful abundant love, whisky at lunch, mini skirts at dawn, swinging beats, swaying hips, strutting bodies and smoke filled headiness. However, reading Julian Barnes‘, The Sense of An Ending, he writes (after sleeping with his ex-girlfriend for the first time):

‘I expect such recreational behaviour will strike later generations as quite unremarkable, both for nowadays, and for back then: after all, wasn’t ‘back then’ the Sixties? Yes it was, but as I said, it depended on where where – and who – you were. If you’ll excuse a brief history lesson: most people didn’t experience ‘the Sixties’ until the Seventies. Which meant, logically, that most people in the Sixties were still experiencing the Fifties – or, on my case, bits of both decades side by side. Which made things rather confusing.’

We/I tend to have a certain nostalgic, rose tinted vision, for a period perhaps never even experienced. Even if we had experienced it, the reality may be obscured by the memory’s tendency to assume youth’s golden delight, upon years gone by. Everyone’s experience of THE past, is their own, but this is what makes personal stories so very interesting. Not all of us have – and continue to – be immersed in a wild world that may warrant a sensational autobiography, a bestseller with a sticker that says so. What defines wild anyway? Flashing bulbs, late night parties and deep discussions on the remote shores of Costa Rica? Dancing on the stage, sipping cocktails with esteemed intellectuals, riding elephants in India, sailing to the Caribbean? The stories of the everyday, of the every person, also offer an enhanced vision of the world as it may have been, through the eyes of another.

Of course, we are now thoroughly interested in the reality of you and I, with documentaries coming out of our tweets and the realityTV shows, everywhere. ‘Everyone has a story’. I have been told since the beginning of my road trip through the cities and deserts, of words. The sensationalism of some of these shows, the bias and drama, has on many occasion made me switch off. Read a book. Have a chat. I’d rather speak to those with the stories – that’s everyone – in real, real life. As I used to say when I couldn’t believe something as a child.

I was recently left on a bench in Jersey, whilst Charlie collected coffees. On the next bench there sat a group of four people. One of them was saying that he wished he had asked his elderly relatives about themselves earlier in his and their, lives. He said he finally really found out about the fascinating – certainly in his view – life of his grandfather, at the very end of his life. Unable to not observe (this people watching is a continuous issue/joy for me), he said: “He mentioned a neckerchief that he had worn for [insert something profound for the man], and I found a picture of me holding this neckerchief and I remember seeing it in my room as a child. I wish I’d known the significance of it back then. I wish I had it now.”

The man had taken the memories of his grandfather and felt richer in someway because of them. The physical reminder, the weighted importance of the neckerchief, in my opinion really doesn’t mean a thing. As it didn’t when he was a child. But the memories, the stories, are the treasures. Stories from – nearly – everyone interest me. Not when the same ones are reeled out, or when a person may believe they’re on some kind of pulpit, preaching away, but just the little chats. Stories lie everywhere. They add elements to the new and old stories and make for a highly coloured vision of the past and future.

So back to the 60s – oops -I am intrigued by the life of Jean Shrimpton. ‘The First Supermodel’ – ‘A DEFINING FACE’ -‘Effortlessly Chic’.

She is a lady of contrasts. With these accolades, you may think that she was one of ‘The Wild Ones’. It was the 60s. After all. However, apparently Shrimpton was not one for the parties, the social jams, the SHOW of it all, describing herself as ‘disenchanted’ by its world. After a relationship with photographer, David Bailey, she spent three years with Terence Stamp. She says of this relationship, in an interview with The Guardian: “We were two pretty people wandering around thinking we were important. Night after night we’d go out for dinner, to the best restaurants, but just so that we could be seen. It was boring. I felt like a bit part in a movie about Terence Stamp.” After growing up in the country, she returned to it when she gave up modelling. “I don’t live my life through the prism of the past.” She says, regarding the forthcoming BBC4 drama about her love affair with photographer David Bailey.

In the same Guardian interview, Alex Wade asks Shrimpton if she regrets turning her back on the life she once led, and moving to the wilds of Cornwall, where she now runs a hotel: “No I am a melancholy soul. I’m not sure contentment is obtainable and I find the banality of modern life terrifying. I sometimes feel I’m damaged goods. But Michael, Thaddeus and the Abbey transformed my life.”

Interesting, you see. The story she has ultimately chosen to lead, is far away from the flash. But did she need to have a break from the beautiful and occasional drudgery of her country life, to love it afresh? Do you always return to the surroundings you know in those rosy havens of memory? How did she transform away from the lights powered by the beautiful?

Do we all end up in the country? !

People are complex.

The BBC said about the new BBC4 show.
“We’ll Take Manhattan reveals how a young, visionary photographer refused to conform and insisted on using the unconventional model Jean Shrimpton on an important photo shoot for British Vogue, inadvertently defining the style of the 1960s along the way.”


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