Georgina Grenville for Augustinus Bader
We challenged Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson to shoot a series of images that would reframe the human body and provoke people to reconsider their own remarkable machine.
Training his eye on Georgina Grenville, Anderson captured her strength, wisdom and natural beauty in these naturalistic portraits. It’s a marked evolution from the campaigns that launched her to international fame: as Tom Ford’s first Gucci Girl she epitomized nineties sleek city glamour, and in Steven Meisel’s 2000 shoot for Versace, she channeled the perfectly preened, super-rich lady of the Beverly Hills mansion.
Georgina’s childhood in Durban, South Africa, centred around beach life by the Indian Ocean. After her heady supermodel years on the Milan / Paris / New York circuit, she settled in the French capital to raise three children with her husband. She is now enjoying modelling again in a changed industry. These shots by Anderson see her present her most raw and authentic look yet.
On set in Barcelona, we caught up with Georgina to find out more about her connection with her own body.
The body is…
The body is the basis of everything really, and what joins you and grounds you to the earth. And obviously the vessel that you're given is an important one. So I think you have to respect it and almost treat it like something borrowed that you're going to have to give back in good condition.
I think that everything starts with how you feel in yourself – physically as well. So, for me, the body is super-important. I think my attitude to the body probably came from growing up in South Africa where the lifestyle is very outdoors. And I also have a father who believed that the more you did physically the stronger your mind would be. So that’s how I was brought up – pushing myself physically.
On growing into your skin
The biggest lesson I learned from this industry is that beauty comes from the inside and that it’s actually really important what’s going on inside. And so I think for me, with ageing, I’ve actually become more and more comfortable with myself. You kind of grow into your skin and then you can finally wear it how you should.
On connecting with the body
I feel connected to my body when walking around barefoot. I love the different temperatures, you go over the sand and it's really hot and then you go over some wood, and it's kind of rough.
I also do a lot of yoga and I’m an avid diver. So when I’m not feeling great I just go underwater or in downward dog. One of my favorite things to do is to lay on the sand on the beach when it’s all hot and just to get out of the water and lay in it. I love the sand and the beach. For me like, it’s such a comforting thing, it’s almost like when you’re a baby being swaddled.
On the pressure to fit an ideal of beauty
I think it used to be a lot more pressure only on women. But I’m kind of saddened to see that the pressure is now across the board, on men and women, to attain whatever they’re trying to sell as perfect at the moment. Hopefully we’ll all realize that there is something more important than the way that we look. And although it’s like great and you should embrace how you look, it’s only the way you look, you know?
I think it’s sad that people spend their whole lives trying to fight what they’ve been given, going to war with your body. That’s your body, you know – respect it. I think that also I’m a Libra so I have this whole thing about balance. Yes, you should go and work out. But not to the extent that it’s the only thing, because every element is important. It’s important that your body looks good, but your body will look better if your mind feels good. It’s all the time about trying to find that balance.
On emotion and physicality
I’m like a book – my emotions are obviously right on the level of my skin. I blush. You can always see what I’m feeling. Sadly, people tell me even when I’m angry they can see the anger marching across my face. Every time I’m on set for a shoot, it doesn’t matter if we’re at the beach or in a studio, If it's winter or if it's summer I always have chicken skin and people always come and rub me and say. “Oh shame, are you cold?” I'm like, “No – excitement.” It’s kind of cool cause I feel like an octopus – you know how when they go from a rock to the sand, they change their skin, the texture. It depends what I’m leaning against. Maybe we’re more similar to them than we think laughs.
On affection from her kids
The kisses and hugs I get from my kids are very important – I wouldn’t survive without them anymore. It’s just the best sensation. I made them, and they’re still growing. When they come and put their little hand on you, you just can’t describe it to anyone – it’s an amazing feeling.
On wisdom learned
I think the thing I’ve learned over the last ten years (which are hard years for a woman, from 30 to 40) is that my body is not so bad, and I actually like it, and I’m starting to really like myself – so I guess it’s been a good decade. If I had one piece of advice that I’d give to my younger self, I think I would say: savour everything and keep savouring. If I was given the opportunity to live my life over again, I would choose to have it exactly the same.