Up close and personal with anti-fashion figure Tara St Hill

The stylist, and former muse of Corinne Day, is the subject of a new book, shot by photographer Zoë Law and published by IDEA. Not that she'd call herself a muse.

Tara St Hill finds the word muse” a bit weird.

When people go you’re an icon’, I think it’s mad,” the frankly iconoclastic stylist, whose work has appeared in mags (yes, there are other mags) such as i‑D, Dazed, 10 magazine and Rolling Stone, says over Zoom. She’s nestled in the corner of a sofa and wearing a Stop Wars” T‑shirt (a play on the Star Wars logo). By her legs is her French bulldog, Gypsy. It can be a really throwaway word for me.”

Sitting next to St Hill is her long-time friend and recent collaborator, photographer Zoë Law. Together, the pair have worked on a new book, Tara, published by IDEA. As you can probably guess from the title, it’s an up close and personal document of St Hill, shot over 24 hours – an celebration of a figure who previously featured in photographer Corinne Day’s acclaimed, but shockingly candid, Diary, released in 2000.

That was St Hill’s first go at being a muse” – even if she cringes at the term – captured in violent floods of tears, the stress of motherhood laid bare. But St Hill was young and carefree, too, laughing and soaking up the sun with her group of friends.

Nearly a quarter of a century on, the images in Tara are much different. Here, she’s in complete control of her emotions and surroundings. The project was guided by her and Law’s friendship going back to the early-1980s, when the pair were just four years old and living a few doors down from one another in Brixton Hill. Law, whose work was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in 2020, worked with St Hill in 2021 on a series of portraits that ended up becoming a zine.

Tara is a photographer’s dream,” she says. After we shot the zine, we had loads of photos. They weren’t just portraits, they were amazing.”

It just felt like the right thing to do when we saw the body of work that Zoë had produced,” St Hill adds. We’ve got such a close connection, and I felt really safe during the shoot. I would never have gotten my fanny out for anyone, or danced around in ballet shoes. That was just something we did completely organically.”

A couple of years later, IDEA came knocking, asking if Law would like to publish a book about her friend. So that’s what we did,” she says. The book, which features an interview by Shonagh Marshall, was shot in a traveller site that St Hill has close connections to; she lived there in mid-2000s, and remains tight with the New Age community, whom she met as part of the rave scenes in the late eighties and early nineties. I’m a traveller,” she asserts. That is where my heart lies.”

Corinne Day’s Diary may have shown the stylist in some of her most challenging moments, producing some of the most unflinching portraits of alienated youth in the 1990s. But in Tara, St Hill is all grown up: confident, in control, and, above all, proud.

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