Frank Sinatra Style

"There was never any question that Robert would take the portrait for the cover of Horses, my aural sword sheathed with Robert's image. I had no sense of how it would look, just that it should be true. The only thing I promised Robert was that I would wear a clean shirt with no stains on it.

The ultra-iconic photo/album cover for Patti Smith's Horses, 1975. From here.
I went to the Salvation Army on the Bowery and bought a stack of white shirts. Some were too big for me, but the one I really liked was neatly pressed with a monogram below the breast pocket. It reminded me of a Brassaï shot of Jean Genet wearing a white monogrammed shirt with rolled-up sleeves. There was an RV stitched on my shirt. I imagined it belonged to Roger Vadim, who had directed Barbarella. I cut the cuffs off the sleeves to wear under my black jacket adorned with the horse pin that Allen Lanier had given me.

Robert wanted to shoot it at Sam Wagstaff's, since his One Fifth Avenue penthouse was bathed in natural light. The corner window cast a shadow creating a triangle of light, and Robert wanted to use it in the photograph.


Robert came to fetch me. He was worried because it was very overcast. I finished getting dressed: black pegged pants, white lisle socks, black Capezios. I added my favorite ribbon, and Robert brushed the crumbs off my black jacket.

We hit the street.


Sam's apartment was small and spartan, all white and nearly empty, with a tall avocado tree by the window overlooking Fifth Avenue. There was a massive prism that refracted the light, breaking it into rainbows cascading on the wall across from a white radiator. Robert placed me by the triangle. His hands trembled slightly as he readied to shoot. I stood.

The clouds kept moving back and forth. Something happened with his light meter and he became slightly agitated. He took a few shots. He abandoned the light meter. A cloud went by and the triangle disappeared. He said, "You know, I really like the whiteness of the shirt. Can you take the jacket off?"

I flung my jacket over my shoulder, Frank Sinatra style. I was full of references. He was full of light and shadow." (249-251)

Smith, Patti. Just Kids. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

So many things here, but mainly I appreciate the behind-the-scenes experience of the shooting of that iconic photo. So lovely to hear how she chose what to wear--or rather, she knew exactly what she was going to wear, as always (check back for more quotations from this book). I always thought that ribbon was some sort of suspenders...not that it makes a difference. And I obviously am glad to know what socks she was wearing. Interesting that she chose to include that, especially since the photo focuses on the top half of her body.

I know everyone else in the world has already read this, but pick it up if you haven't. Her writing style is fine but not refined (in a good way) and if you need any suggestions for your burgeoning 1970s lookbook...