In A Life on Record Marianne Faithfull takes us along for the ride that is her life in pictorial form. The oversized book published by Rizzoli on the occasion of the artist’s fiftieth stage anniversary last year is the celebration of the life of a woman who has seen and done it all. After two comprehensive autobiographies the photo book eagerly awaited by fans is finally here.
Beginning with vintage shots of the singer’s mother Eva—who in her youth was a dancer in Berlin and Vienna—the reader is led more or less chronologically through each decade, with the overall narritive feeling a bit unstructured. Portraits by renowned photographers like Helmut Newton, Ellen von Unwerth or David Bailey are featured alongside personal, never-before-seen snapshots, artwork and newspaper cut-outs which give the book a very personal feel, like looking at a photo album with an old friend. There are a few rarities and surprises even for die-hard fans who will be familiar with most of the portraits shot by the renowned photographers.
The subject herself comments sparsely, but often humourously, on the content in the form of handwritten captions. A special treat are the photos taken of Faithfull’s Paris apartment, featuring her own collection of artwork by artists such as Francis Bacon or Richard Hamilton. An introduction by Salman Rushdie and two essays by Will Self and Terry Southern respectively provide context for the melangerie of visuals that might otherwise be confusing for readers not as familiar with Faithfull’s career.
One of the shortcomings of this publication might be that, compared to the others, there aren’t quite enough photos and documents from the past decade of the artist’s career. Furthermore it would have been interesting to have some anecdotes from the creative processes behind Faithfull’s albums as the title of the book seems to suggest. However this doesn’t diminish the overall enjoyability of the book. Whether one is already a fan or is looking for an introduction to one of the most mesmerising working artists today A Life on Record should be part of any music aficionado’s book collection. Maggie Bee, January 2015
Top image: Courtesy of Marianne Faithfull/Rizzoli Publishing. Special thanks to Sarah Bogart.