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Michael Hutchence by Harry Borden

An interview with photographer Harry Borden about his portrait of Michael Hutchence.

Interview with Harry Borden
Video: 2 minutes

The National Portrait Gallery would like to thank Harry Borden for his kind assistance with this project. All images courtesy of the artist.

Hutchence Death - Suicide Uncertain, 25 November 1997
by Nick Papadopoulos, Sydney Morning Herald

Rock Star’s Death a Puzzle, 24 November 1997
by Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald

Harry Borden: Okay. This is Harry Borden. I’m making noises on my camera to give the impression I’m a photographer.

As a portrait photographer I’m sort of running around a meadow of celebrities sort of trying to capture these kind of people in my butterfly net. I steadfastly adhere to the ethos that a portrait is a record of the relationship you have with a person, and kind of authenticity is really important.

Michael Hutchence was kind of unusual in that respect, in that he I think was kind of very much an incredible kind of frontman. He had this kind of incredible kind of grace, and he did have this amazing sort of charisma. I had a sort of a formal session with him, and the rest of the time was just hanging around. That picture was actually taken during the hanging around time. He sort of nonchalantly kind of came out, and strolled around, and smoked his cigarette. I took a couple of pictures that were generally kind of reportage, and I was sort of hanging over the side of the balcony, and I was just instinctively just snapping.

He’s not really engaging with the camera at all. He’s sort of somewhere else. That’s the way he was. I mean, we went downstairs and we sort of walked around the Champs Elysees and with all the traffic, and he was sort of pretending to hitchhike.

It’s a bit harsh to say that he failed. Sort of failure would be based on the assumption that he took his own life, but I don’t think you can blame someone for a tragic accident, which is what I think it was.

It has a lightness of touch, and is genuinely kind of not merely a contrivance, just a sort of a genuine moment.