In 1983, before she became the cultural icon that she is today, Madonna lived in a walk-up on East 4th Street. In between going out almost every night, she was waitressing and posing nude for art students to pay the bills for her aspiring music career.
Photographer Richard Corman was first introduced to the then 24-year-old through his mother Cis, a casting director at the time for Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. When Madonna auditioned for the role of Mary Magdalene (unsuccessfully), Cis saw in her an “absolute original.”
These photographs were taken before the release of Madonna’s debut album, just a month before her unprecedented ascension into stardom. Corman captures the raw beauty of a star teeming with potential, on the verge of becoming pop music’s biggest icon, through 66 previously unpublished polaroids that are seeing the light after having been lost for decades. Madonna 66 will be shown as a book, website, film, installation, and social media project—a “360-degree approach to a raw little polaroid,” in the words of the photographer.
Here, Richard Corman reflects on Madonna’s inimitable style, the art of polaroid photography, and the creative, palpable energy of downtown Manhattan in the ’80s.
Describe your first encounter with Madonna.
Richard Corman Madonna made sure I called her prior to entering the building on East 4th Street because the crew on her stoop would not have let me through without her say so. When I approached the building, I told those outside I was a friend of Madonna and the seas parted. I heard M yelling over the banister from the 4th floor to come on up. When I looked up from the first floor and encountered those piercing cat-like eyes I knew that something special awaited on the 4th floor. Indeed as I walked in, she served me espresso on a silver-plated tray with bazooka bubble gum…so raw, so real, so sexy, so much fun.