da thedailytelegraph.co.uk del 13/11/2008
Elton John: When I met Sam Taylor-Wood, I fell in love with her
Elton John and artist Sam Taylor-Wood talk about what bonds them - and what drives them mad
The British contemporary artist Sam Taylor-Wood and Elton
John have been friends for more than a decade. Soon after they met in
1997, John commissioned Taylor-Wood to direct a music video starring
Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr for his hit single I Want Love.
Earlier this year, they attended the Cannes film festival, where
Taylor-Wood's short film Love You More had been nominated for a Palme
Their frank conversation was filmed as part of an ITV
documentary about Taylor-Wood's life and work which will be broadcast
tomorrow night, to coincide with her two-part exhibition in London.
Here, we present an edited transcript of that conversation.
Since it was filmed, Taylor-Wood has separated from her husband Jay
Jopling, the celebrated British dealer of contemporary art.
Elton John: Sam is one of the greatest
artists I've ever met. We first met at a Pet Shop Boys concert at the
Savoy Theatre. I'd never really heard of her before; but we got on like a
house on fire. We've done album covers and photograph sessions
together, such as the Crying Men series [photographs of tearful film
actors, taken in 2002-4]. I wrote to some of the actors and asked them
to do it, and it was like pulling teeth until Sam got the first done.
And then, when people had seen them, more people came into it and
collected these 26 incredible photographs of men crying. I have all of
them up on the wall in my house in London.
Sam Taylor-Wood: We sold them all for Elton's Aids foundation.
EJ: Which was fantastic. As soon as I met
Sam, I fell in love with her. If I wasn't in a relationship with David
[Furnish], and I was to go the other way again, Sam would be the woman
that I would want to spend the rest of my life with. When we met, I was
getting much more into art and photography and collecting and I'd been
sober for a few years. I'd collected black-and-white photography from
the 20th century, but I didn't get into contemporary photography until I
saw Sam's [work] and started to collect it. I think I've got about 80
photographs of Sam's now… I've [also] got a lot of work by Irving Penn
and Robert Mapplethorpe. But I love Sam's work. It's so varied.
STW: When I was really ill [with cancer],
Elton and David looked after me. I felt like I'd lost all my creative
ideas, energy, oomph, everything. And Elton called me and said, "Come
on, why don't you do my next video [for I Want Love, in 2001]?" It was a
big kick up the arse. Doing that video gave me the confidence to begin
the next phase of my work. That has often happened when I've gone into a
slump. We talk to each other all the time, practically every day. He
knows when I'm not myself and keeps me going, imbuing me with the same
energy that he has.
EJ: I don't like being around self-obsessed
artists who just talk about themselves. Sam certainly doesn't do that.
In fact she is very shy. She cringes a lot. All creative people are
monsters sometimes. Not in our behaviour towards other people, but in
our behaviour towards ourselves. Sam is very stubborn and very
STW: I can be very self-destructive, but quietly.
EJ: Sam doesn't like pretentiousness,
doesn't like people who are self-absorbed. She likes to laugh. But when
she went through that hideous cancer stuff… that alters the way you are
as a person; the way you think, the way you look at life, the way you
sometimes have that fear that it will come back. I've never talked to
her about it but I know it's one of the big reasons she does so much
work - I think she thinks, "Maybe it will come back." And that's why you
get this incredible drive and the amount of work that she does. She's
done a short film, photo shoots of people, two or three new series of
videos, a new series of photographs, all in the last nine months. That's
an awful lot of work. I think there is a deep-rooted drive in her that
is fuelled by the fear of the cancer coming back.
STW: Yes, totally. You can see it with the
Wuthering Heights [series of Brontë-inspired photographs, now on show at
London's White Cube gallery]. Knowing how I felt when I did those
pictures, being in that barren, disturbing landscape - there is a base
level that definitely comes from what I've been through.
EJ: Sam is married to the most successful
contemporary art dealer in Britain, so some people think - wrongly -
that she has had an easy ride. Sometimes that works against her,
especially in America. I don't think she has been represented very well
in America. And that may be a lot to do with her husband Jay being very
protective of her; I don't think he's found her the right place to be.
And that has held her back. I don't think it has been easy, because
Jay represents so many other different artists. I don't know whether
it's Jay's fault.
STW: It's complicated because galleries
like control of their artists and it's already a tussle, but being
married to Jay, then it's a whole other battle that they feel they don't
really want to fight.
EJ: It drives me crazy. It's not the same
for Damien [Hirst] or the Chapman brothers or people like that. I love
Jay to death but it's something that needs to be sorted out because it
has been going on for too long.
STW: Yeah, I know.