I certainly have had advantages that many people have not. Over the years, my mother, Cis Corman, a well-known and respected casting director and producer, tipped me off to more than one fascinating performer, who had not yet captured the public stage. When Cis believed in someone’s talent she was relentless in her pursuit to share that gift with the world and she often enlisted me in that drive.
In 1983 my mother called me to drop everything and photograph a performer named Madonna. Cis was preparing a modern treatment of the classic fairy tale Cinderella. The central character was renamed “Cinde Rella” in this New York City fable that would satirize the rock music world and Madonna was to play the lead. Cis had previously auditioned Madonna for the role of Mary Magdalene for a Scorsese project, The Last Temptation of Christ. While Madonna did not get that role, she left an indelible impression on Cis. “She is an original! I’ve never met anyone like her!”
Over the next year, I photographed Madonna in a series of sittings. It all began with that urgent call. Cis needed imagery immediately to send to a major film studio. As I put my minimal kit together for this shoot, I thought of Polaroid’s immediacy. I ran downtown to Madonna’s brother’s apartment, where she greeted me in Cinde’s denim rags. Our shoot would transform Cinde from a stepdaughter cleaning her evil stepmother’s apartment to eventually preparing herself for the Ball. Madonna’s genius was her ability to create a highly personal and original sense of style. As a result this interpretation of Cinde Rella had everything to do with Madonna’s flare, taste and boldness! Her charisma was multi-dimensional. Her physical beauty, her fashion, her hair and makeup, her humor, her playful sexiness and her accessibility took this character into a rare and visionary state. Polaroid after Polaroid brought to life a modern Rock n’ Roll Lower East Side Cinderella as she cleaned the house, hugged her boom box, applied perfume in her bathroom and then finally put on her ball gown that I swear she bought for about $1.80. It was all so fascinating! The simplicity of the Polaroid enhanced the rawness and spontaneity of these images. She effortlessly created an iconic image of that electric time in New York music and art.
Sadly, the film was never made, but the real tragedy was that for thirty five years I had lost and/or misplaced these fascinating 66 Polaroids. In my mind, they were lost forever. On a recent apartment move in NYC and a review of many unlabeled boxes…Cinde Rella reappeared. What you see here is the boldness and canniness of the young Madonna just beginning her life as an icon.