The project to produce WOW! came together over the summer and autumn of 2014. Worldwide interest in Kate Bush was at a significant high, fueled by a series of concerts after a gap of 35 years. Kate Bush fans gathered in London from all corners of the globe, and it seemed like most came to see us at our gallery just off Piccadilly. Wow. These were crazy times indeed.
For some time before then, Gered Mankowitz and I had been discussing a large format book of his photographs, and when he sent me a selection of rough scans of contact sheets from his sessions with Kate Bush, I was convinced that we were on to something very special. Over a period of a few weeks, the scans came through in batches, and by the end, I was able to see Gered’s entire surviving Kate Bush archive of images all together, in one place, at the same time. That’s not an opportunity you get every day. The more time I spent with these incredible images, the more I was sure that we needed to celebrate this archive in the ultra-large format offered by one of our beautiful books.
A detailed exercise to catalogue the original negatives and transparencies showed that we had a population of a little over five hundred images to choose from. Gered went back to his original records from 1978 and 1979 to date the sessions, and as part of the same exercise he was able to determine which photographs were taken at each of the four shoots.
Deciding what to include and what not to include is always a challenge, but actually is one of the most enjoyable aspects of a project such as this, and Gered and I spent many hours together working through the selections. In the end, we have used around 250 images, just under half the surviving archive. For the most part the book presents the images in a stunning large format, and each image appearing in the book has been freshly scanned at the appropriate resolution and painstakingly cleaned to allow reproduction on this epic scale. On some double page spreads, we have presented images as contact sheets of twelve images – an entire roll of film – and in one incredible sequence of shots of Kate dancing from Gered’s fourth and final session, we present forty eight individual frames on one spread. The physical scale of the book means that each of these frames can still be seen clearly.
Gered photographed Kate Bush on four separate occasions between January 1978 and February 1979 and the four sessions are presented sequentially in the book. The first session produced the pink leotard photographs that were used to launch Kate. The second session was particularly prolific, while the sole focus of the the third session was the Lionheart album cover. In terms of physical output, the fourth and final session was actually even more prolific than the second, and given the importance of dance and movement, it is fitting that the images that end the sequence, and provide the last photographs in the book, are of Kate in motion, almost jumping out of the frame.
It was while trawling through his archives for the book that Gered uncovered a series of original Polaroids from the sessions that he had not seen for over thirty years. These Polaroids were used to test the set-ups and lighting, and we have included many of these polaroids in the book.
Guy White, publisher, Ormond Yard Press.