In an amazing discovery, 66 polaroids of Madonna were found, taken right before she became the international super star we know her as today. Photographer Richard Corman took the photos to help cast Madonna in a proposed film cast by his mother, ‘Cindy Rella’, that never got made. The polaroids will feature in an exhibition at a Chelsea gallery by Corman as well as in a book.
The polaroids were taken a month before Madonna released her debut self-titled album that produced three top ten hits which were Holiday, Lucky Star and Borderline. The following year she was making the video for Like a Virgin.
At the time when Richard Corman met her she was dating a DJ called Jellybean Benitez, she was dancing at the Funhouse and the Danceteria, she was waitressing and posing nude for art students.
Of these early days in New York Madonna wrote “I felt like a warrior plunging my way through the crowds to survive.”
Richard Corman was clearing out his warehouse when he discovered the polaroids, which had been there for 30 years.
Corman’s mother was casting a Martin Scorsese movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Madonna auditioned for the virgin Mary, unsuccessfully. Through this audition Madonna was introduced to photographer, Corman who was constantly on the lookout for interesting subjects to photograph.
When Corman’s mother was considering Madonna for a part in a musical, ‘Cindy Rella’, Warner Bros needed casting pictures. This is how Corman came to shoot Madonna, taking 66 polaroids.
“We put together a book with a script for a treatment, and the casting. Michael Jackson or Prince would play the prince, Aretha Franklin was going to play the wicked stepmother. As it turned out, the movie never got made” said Corman
Madonna had such determination, sense of self and was so sure of herself, and these qualities came through in the photos.
“If we did these pictures today there would be 30 people standing in that apartment. But it was just me and her, it was so simple. She was so accessible, funny, and sexy. She was so cool and had such charisma” said Corman
The images show Madonna as the character of Cinderella, with a broom, by the sink, in the kitchen. One of the final shots show her in a beautiful party dress.
She styled herself and did her own hair and make-up.
“She was always in control. She knew exactly the way she wanted it to look. That evening, she met me and my mother and father up at this place on the Upper West Side where every New York City actor hung out. She walked in and she just stopped traffic. Nobody looked like her! She was a visionary in life, and she was certainly 100% original” said Corman.
Corman captured an attitude, style, courage and confidence about Madonna, interestingly, before she knew success.
“I will be on top of the world. I will rule the world. Nothing will stop me, and I will go through anybody to get to where I’m going.” That was absolutely the language. It was so real and so natural. Nothing seemed pretentious,” said Corman
This discovery of 66 polaroids of Madonna on the cusp of her fame and long lasting career shows that inner confidence and prowess comes before success, which can be seen from the self-assuredness in these polaroids. It is also fascinating that these images were lost and now emerge decades later, shedding light on a different time, and fitting a piece of the pop-music culture history.