Text by Dafydd Jones
I moved to New York with my wife and young children in 1989, helped by the generous editors Tina Brown and Graydon Carter. I started by shooting billionaires and their wives in Manhattan, then, as the celebrity obsession grew, I found myself by the middle of the 90s spending more time in Los Angeles.
We returned to England in 1996. After a 20-year hiatus I’ve now built another darkroom. I’m going back through my film pictures doing a new edit of my American pictures to print. Some images that were important at the time now seem irrelevant. Some have always stood out. Some of the quieter images seem to last. Most are scans of the prints that I’ve done in the darkroom – I like the borders on some of them, which come from the enlarged negative holder being filed down. All these images will be included in a boxed set of my pictures provisionally called ‘The Vanity Fair Years’.
DJ: This was in the middle of the Donald Trump divorce from Ivana which was being played out every day in the press. Street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham is there in the background coming up. Everyone was looking at Ivana – a couple of women laughing. I’ve never liked smiley pictures. Ivana had a forced grin but for a moment it all was too much for her.
DJ: This was one of those moments. Both ladies said they loved the picture, looking me in the eye. Brooke said it was such an extraordinary expression on her dachshund’s face – leaving unsaid anything about her own expression. Iris and Brooke used the picture on a party invitation a year later.
DJ: The centrepieces at this charity lunch were alive! A tough job on a hot day. The jaded party-goers weren’t taking much notice.
DJ: Each year elephants would walk through the Queens Tunnel and Midtown Manhattan at 1 a.m. to the circus in Madison Square Garden. This was in 1993. As the crowd of onlookers thinned, the grandeur of the elephants seemed to be returning.
DJ: This was the first year of Vanity Fair’s party and everyone was nervous as to how it would go. Graydon Carter was nervously pacing around smoking, but he needn’t have worried. As a party it was intimate and relaxed, with a mixture of all ages. I had no idea who Leonardo was at the time but thought he looked cool.
DJ: Vanity Fair laid on a spectacle outside. They had space for the media with topiary and branding.
DJ: A blur sucking a lollipop arrived at speed with an entourage and I instinctively walked a few steps ahead and took this picture. I then realised it was Prince!
DJ: A big feature of the Vanity Fair Oscar party was the huge line of excited corralled press yelling for attention and interviews. Although never published, this picture has stayed in my head over the years and will be included in my boxed set.
DJ: Nicolas Cage clutching his Oscar at the Vanity Fair Oscar Night party.
DJ: At first Mick was sitting by himself looking bored, and then Madonna crossed the room to sit down next to him. He came to life and became quite animated. Then Tony Curtis came along and sat down at the same table and started monopolising Madonna. I find it difficult to do a meaningful picture of a party so knew immediately that this was it. But at the time I was upset that this picture wasn’t published. Ten years later Terence Pepper selected it for the Vanity Fair portraits exhibition which opened at the National Portrait Gallery.
Photographs © Dafydd Jones