Ara Gallant was never even really interested in hair. I thought Id be a dancer, he said in 1978. But my father had financed a beauty salon, so I went into hair I hated it. But I was good at it. And that was the most interesting revelation I had always thought to be talented at something, you had to like it.
Gallant was more than just good at hair. Born Ira Gallantz in 1932 in the Bronx he changed his name to Ara Gallant because he thought it sounded more exotic he began his career as a hairdresser at Bergdorf’s. By the mid-1960s he had been spotted by Vogue editors, and swiftly plucked from behind the chair, and so began his real career. Because Gallant wasnt a hairdresser; he was a sculptor, a fantasy-maker, an illusionist whose medium of choice happened to be hair.
In the 60s and 70s, Gallant was a fixture on the sets of celebrated photographers like Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, working with au courant models like Twiggy, Veruschka, Apollonia, Lauren Hutton and Penelope Tree. It was on those sets that he earned the title of the master of flying hair, an effect he first tried on Twiggy in 1966 and is still used constantly today in Gallants able hands, hair came alive.
The latest tome by Damiani, simply titled Ara Gallant, gathers together some of his most iconic images, including ones he took himself when he embarked on a second career as a photographer (the busy bee was also a frequent contributor to Interview). But more than just offering inspired beauty moments, the book is a glimpse into a period in fashion driven by fantasy and the glamorous people who occupied it like Anjelica Huston (a dear friend of his; she also wrote the introduction), Marisa Berenson, Margaux Hemingway, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Diane von Furstenberg (she actually used one of Gallants old portraits of her as inspiration for a recent show).
Gallants own Upper West Side apartment was a frequent gathering point for the in crowd; the legendary dcor floor-to-ceiling black with red paint splatters to mimic blood plus mirrored walls and ceilings gave it a feeling of permanent night. Sadly, Gallant took his own life in 1990 so this incredible tome serves as a fitting reminder of the beauty he created while he was alive.
Ara Gallant, $60 at Artbook.com
Images courtesy of Damiani
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