Amy: A Life Through The Lens by Darren and Elliott Bloom

Column: Literature In Review   |   Date Published: Sunday, 14 May 17   |   Author: Cara Lennon   |   1 month, 2 weeks ago

     [Omnibus Press; 2017]

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but ideally you want those to be a thousand words that are different from each other. If translated to text, the photobiography Amy: A Life Through the Lens would read Camden pub, Camden pub, drugs, boobs, boyfriends, nightclub. Rinse and repeat for 300 pages. Oh look, there’s Kate Moss.

If you already know that Amy Winehouse was a gorgeous, talented singer with substance abuse issues, this book doesn’t have much more to offer you unless you’re dying to know precisely when she got her breasts augmented, or you’ve got a crying need for a coffee table book with a few nip slips in it.

The photography in Amy is drawn exclusively from the work of Darren and Elliott Bloom, two paparazzos who had a tenuous link to the Winehouse family. They bill themselves as friends of the family with exclusive access to Winehouse – a claim that’s at odds with stories they share of racing around central London at ungodly hours, competing with other photographers to find her.

As far as tabloid photos go, it’s a glossy and comprehensive collection. Winehouse, uncompromising and vivacious, is unapologetic at her worst and at her best. But the title ‘A Life Through the Lens’ is accurate only if a life can be measured in a series of tipsy night-time stumbles from one part of London to another. There are no childhood photos or anything pre-fame; no red carpet shots, award ceremonies, no tours of the family home. Most unforgivably for a book that purports to chronicle the career of a singer, there’s next to no music. No recording sessions, no real gigs to speak of, no green room candids. No record sleeves or concert posters.

This feels very much like a cash-in made by two papparazzos with pictures they had on hand. Far from meeting the book’s own boast that it covers ‘all aspects of her life’, the biography doesn’t even provide much insight into the one aspect it should be able to corner: Winehouse’s relationship with the paparazzi.

But then, perhaps that’s not a comfortable subject for the Blooms. Winehouse famously attacked members of the paparazzi in 2008, taking out a court injunction banning many of them from approaching her in 2009. The aftermath of her death was smattered with speculation on how media exploitation contributed to her downfall. None of this is mentioned by the Blooms, who without a shred of introspection paint themselves as part of Winehouse’s safety net, between stories about the lengths she sometimes went to escaping from them. But hey, they wrap up with some very sad photos of the funeral. Stay classy, guys.




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