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January 4, 2017

The Corman’s Missing Polaroids: The Story Behind 66 Lost Polaroids of Madonna Before She Was Famous

The missing Polaroids had kept Richard Corman awake at night for years. He had misplaced or, worse, thrown away dozens of shots he took of Madonna in April 1983, when she was a fiercely ambitious 24 years old unknown with blood-red-lips, a painted-on-mole and an armful of black rubber bangles.

The shoots was the nascent superstar in as many months. They had been introduced by his mother, the fames casting agent Cis Corman; Madonna had auditioned to play the Virgin Mary in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. She didn’t get the role, “but my mother said, this girl is going to be something big,” Corman recalled. Cis suggested that her son, who was assisting Richard Avedon, snap some images. After a first shoot in and around Madonna’s East Village tenement walk-up in Manhattan, Corman set up another session.

This time he would shoot Polaroids, which would be sent with a pitch his mother had written for a movie that was an updated take on Cinderella (she had hoped to cast Madonna alongside Michael Jackson or Prince).

“I shoot her in her brother’s apartment,” he said. “She posed as a maid. And then... she changed into a striped skirt, something only she would wear to a ball.”

He took more that 70 photos that day, reserving a handful to send off with the treatment for the movie that was never made and stowing the rest somewhere else. Madonna’s career took off before the end of that year with “Holiday”, and Corman’s soon rose as well: He shot everyone from Jean-Michel-Basquiat to Nelson Mandela.

It wasn’t until early February 2016, while moving apartments, that he pulled an unmarked box from the back of the closet and the 66 never-before-seen shots reappeared.

The last time Corman saw Madonna was more than a decade ago; he and his wife had walked into a Madison Avenue shoe store one afternoon when his 4-year-old son ran to hug the knees of a random lady with platinum hair. “She turned around and saw it was me. And the whole thing, the wild and creative scene she came out of downtown, how fresh and perfect and fluid she was — it all came rushing back.”

After being lost for more than 30 years, the unpublished images were gathered in a 164 page book titled Madonna 66, available for purchase here.


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