Editor’s note: This story was originally published on October 20, 2013.
One full year before Madonna appeared on television for the first time and confidently declared to Dick Clark on “American Bandstand” that she was going to “rule the world,” photographer Richard Corman could have told you the same thing.
Corman photographed the superstar-in-the-making on the Lower East Side of New York in the early ‘80s and released the collection of images in a 2013 book, “Madonna NYC 83.”
He met Madonna through a tip from his mother, a casting director. He was fresh off an apprenticeship with photographer Richard Avedon, and Madonna had yet to release her debut album.
Cis Corman first saw Madonna when she was casting Martin Scorcese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” and suggested her son get in touch.
When he arrived at her walk-up apartment, Corman was supposed to call from a pay phone across the street to be let in. But when the neighborhood kids heard who he was visiting, “the sea parted,” Corman recalled.
Madonna served him coffee and bubblegum on a silver platter, and then he pulled out his camera.
“I adore Madonna, and respect her. I think she’s so gifted,” Corman said. “But it’s important to note that I’m not a big, huge, crazy Madonna fan. This book is an homage to that period of time and to today.
“What moves me the most about these pictures is that they feel like they could have happened yesterday. All of them. Every one.”
Still, Madonna herself was undeniable.
Whether she was dancing with neighborhood kids on the roof of her building or hanging with senior citizens outside a nursing home, Corman says Madonna was one of a kind.
“I appreciate her sensuality, and her humor. She had this beauty that I’d never seen before and, to this day, I’ve never seen again.”
“She was ahead of pop culture at the time,” Corman continued. “None of us knew it. Those earrings I see on every corner. Those faux pearls, everywhere. Those dark roots, everybody’s getting their hair done that way now. And that red mouth. It blows my mind.”
In reviewing the photos for his book, Corman noticed something about Madonna’s famous penciled-on beauty mark that moved him even 30 years later.
“I didn’t understand the color until I was looking at these so carefully,” he said. “Then I realized it was purple to match her eye shadow.
“From the shoes she was wearing, to the look in her eyes, to the way her hair was spiked out, the denim – it was just perfection. Every single detail, this girl was just off the charts.”