Michael Hutchence pauses for a cigarette on the balcony of his hotel on the Champs Élysées, Paris, March 1997
This portrait of Michael Hutchence has become one of Harry Borden’s best known images. Harry recalls a memorable week spent with the tragically short-lived INXS singer: “In March 1997, I was asked by The Observer to photograph him in Paris, where he was promoting INXS’s latest single, “Elegantly Wasted”. It was a great commission and involved me staying at a really nice hotel on the Champs-Élysées for a week – where Hutchence was also staying. However, as we had to fit the shoots around him doing interviews and performing on pop shows, there was a lot of waiting around. I saw him perform the new single over and over again. He was, at that time, 37 years old and had been in the business for more than 20 years, but was still a mesmerising performer and had a lithe, panther-like quality. He had a great voice and his on-stage presence helped make the band really successful.
One day I was out on the hotel balcony, trying to keep out of the way while he was doing a television interview in his room. At one point, he came out to have a cigarette. I had my camera with me and he just posed for me briefly, without either of us actually acknowledging that he was posing. As he looked past me, into the distance, his mind seemed to be somewhere else. It was a genuine moment. Having got to know Hutchence quite well during my week in Paris, it was a shock when, just nine months later, he was tragically found dead in a Sydney hotel room. The official verdict was suicide.
The following year, the balcony shot was shortlisted for the John Kobal Portrait Award, and the Australian National Portrait Gallery contacted me to say they wanted it in their collection. Later, some of my other Michael Hutchence images featured on the sleeve of his posthumously released solo album. Since then, the balcony portrait has taken on a life of its own and has become one of my best-known photographs. The fact that Hutchence had died in a hotel room has undoubtedly given the portrait added poignancy. “
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