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Björk: A little Backstory

Bjork / The Sugarcubes

Bjork Photographed by David McIntyre

Björk Portrait No.1

One day my friend Paul White handed me a demo tape from an Icelandic band called The Sugarcubes and invited me to have a listen. He had crazy obscure and eclectic taste and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully I was able to rave, the demo was fantastic and it included two songs that still send shivers up my spine. Motor Crash and Birthday – I was blown away. Björk’s voice and delivery was intense and seductive. Sometimes soaring above the song, sometimes descending deep into the verse with every visceral fiber of her being, sending mixed signals of desire, passion and fear on every breath.

I met Paul a long time ago, when I was was just starting out.  He is simply one of the most talented, creative and innovative people I’ve been lucky enough to know. His company is called Me Company and during this time he was involved with the record label One Little Indian.

I called Paul and left a message. “The Sugarcubes are amazing!”

A few weeks later he called and asked if I wanted to meet the band at a pub in London’s Camden Town. They had just signed with One Little Indian Records and were having a celebration.

I still remember entering the bar and seeing Björk sitting at the head of an old wooden table, her elbows resting on the table with her upturned palms supporting her chin, looking every bit like a bored teenager with a secret.  She was surrounded by guys – band members, suits from the label and Paul- who were sitting on benches that ran the length of the table. There must have been half a dozen different conversation going as I approached. It was a mesmerizing scene that resembled John Tenniel’s famous illustration of the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland. Björk was of course Alice!

Introductions were made and when one of the crew headed to the bar to get another round of drinks I took the vacant seat beside Paul and whispered “I have to photograph this girl!”

And so it was that a few days later we headed to the south coast of England. Björk, Einar, (The Sugarcubes male vocalist) Paul and myself. Back then working for an indie label we didn’t shoot a lot of film, perhaps in the course of the day I shot around five rolls, black & white and color, and from these the enclosed photograph stood out. The picture was taken when Björk casually picked up a dead fish (who does that?) and smiled as she stroked is head. Although she was 22 and already a mother she barley looks 12 years old and it’s hard to imagine that the girl in this photograph had earlier instigated a conversation about Anne Desclos’ book, Story of O as we drove to the beach.

The picture was used on the back cover of their first single Birthday. It was also sent out to the media accompanying a press release and a pre-release copy of the single. All the music press picked it up; Sounds, New Musical Express and The Melody Maker who declared Birthday ‘single of the week.’ My photograph appeared with every story, it was everywhere and just like that a star was born!

It was also the beginning of a long relationship in which I spent time with and photographed Björk and The Sugarcubes in both England and Iceland.

As happens we drifted apart and I didn’t see her for many years until probably the fall of 2000, when having moved to New York I bumped into her in Central Park. I was pushing a stroller with my baby son in it. I called her name, “Björk.” She glanced in my direction before turning and scurrying away. I was a little embarrassed but quickly rationalized the encounter and moved on. However fate had a trick up it’s sleeve. A few days later I was attending a Visionaire Magazine party at F.I.T., when guess who showed up? I was a bit apprehensive recalling our earlier encounter but as soon she saw me she jumped into my arms “David, how great to see you!” Delivered in that wonderful Icelandic English accent.


60×48 Signed, Gelatin Silver Print,Limited Edition of 10 / $18.000.00