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Photographer Behind Michael Hutchence’s 1993 BDSM Photo Remembers Iconic Shoot

On the 22nd anniversary of legendary INXS singer Michael Hutchence's death, LA-based music photographer Chris Cuffaro reflected on his time with the star for his latest exhibit 'Greatest Hits: Michael Hutchence'.

"Way back in October 1993, my good friend Erin Culley was the Music Editor for Detour Magazine," Cuffaro told 10 daily as he showed off several snaps in Paddington's Blender Gallery.

"One day she called me up and said, 'I'm doing a story on Michael Hutchence and I need you to do the shoot'. She sort of already knew Michael... so it all came together really quickly," he said.

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While many celebrities and musicians have been renowned for their diva-like demands and unprofessional antics on set, Cuffaro revealed that when it came to Hutchence , it was the opposite.

"Some are easier than others, and Michael was beyond easy to work with," he said, adding, "You could just say, 'look this way, Michael', and he would turn to the camera and just had it."

He continued, "Michael made me look good. I mean, it wasn't that hard. There are just certain people that just have that something special".

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Working with his signature pared-down set, featuring bare surroundings and a grey or white backdrop, Cuffaro said he believes that working with a minimalistic space allows the artist's personality to shine.

"Towards the end of the shoot I basically said to Michael, 'I have this crazy idea -- I've got these BSDM masks and blindfolds, would you be into doing some portraits with them?' And he looked at me and just laughed," Cuffaro said.

Image: Chris Cuffaro

He continued, "I knew he had a sense of humour about stuff like that, and I wouldn't have asked if we weren't already having so much fun that day. So I gave him this mask, and he put it on and started smoking a cigarette."

"Even though you can't see his face, you can tell it's him. You can just see his personality coming through -- it's definitely one of my favourites," he said.

It was this quirky image that would eventually be chosen as the opening shot for Hutchence 's interview in Detour Magazine.

Image: Chris Cuffaro

Hutchence's Detour photoshoot with the legendary photographer wasn't the first -- in fact, Cuffaro had previously met him when he was asked to shoot INXS in 1988 while they were on the road for their 'Kick' tour.

"I was in the middle of doing George Michael's 'Faith' tour at the time and out of nowhere I got asked to go to Ottawa, Canada, to shoot INXS for some shows and backstage stuff," he explained.

"That was a lot of fun -- plus, I was a huge INXS fan to begin with, so that made it easy -- and the whole band were so nice to me."

Image: Chris Cuffaro for Detour Magazine

"The one thing I remember most from that day was when we were backstage -- and back then I only ever wore tennis shoes -- but I noticed Michael was wearing Doc Martens, and mind you this is 1988, and I asked him if they were comfortable, and he goes, 'Oh, try them on!'"

"So I tried his Doc Martens on and I was like, 'these are great!' -- and when I got home I literally went straight to the store and bought a pair of Docs and only wore them for years. So basically, Michael Hutchence got me onto Doc Martens -- and this was before grunge was a thing."

Image: Chris Cuffaro

It would be just four short years after the Detour shoot, on November 2, 1997, that Hutchence would be found dead in his room at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Double Bay, Sydney. His death was reported by the New South Wales Coroner to be the result of suicide by hanging. He was just 37.

Cuffaro mused that, while his time observing Michael was definitely brief, he didn't sense anything amiss with the star throughout their encounters.

"I wasn't close to him, I got to shoot him for the day. But as a subject, I can tell you, he was amazing. He gave me so much. That's why this exhibition is about the one session, the one day --  because you can see just how rich it is."

"I can only speak for that day," Cuffaro continued.

"But he was in good spirits and we just laughed non-stop the entire day."

Image: Chris Cuffaro

GREATEST HITS: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE runs from November 21, 2019 – January 11 2020 at Blender Gallery, 16 Elizabeth Street, Paddington.   

Image: Chris Cuffaro.