You’ve Never Seen These Photos of Björk Before

Humberto Leon unearthed a trove of photographs that Spike Jonze shot of Björk one day before filming her video for “It’s Oh So Quiet,” but shelved and never revisited. Three decades later, they’re going on view at Leon’s L.A. gallery for the first time.

All photography by Spike Jonze

Humberto Leon was a sophomore at UC Berkeley when he first caught the video for Björk’s 1995 hit single “It’s Oh So Quiet” on MTV. “It changed my life,” the designer and Opening Ceremony founder says. “I remember like it happened yesterday. It was so happy and joyful, yet weird and strange—everything I love in one.” Shot by filmmaker Spike Jonze in the San Fernando Valley as an homage to Technicolor musicals, the video perfectly matches the song’s quirky effervescence and abrupt transitions between gentle verses and brassy choruses with colorful, highly stylized visuals and theatrical choreography. Nearly three decades later, it remains the Icelandic musician’s biggest hit, thanks in large part to its constant rotation on MTV.

Few may know that Jonze, then 25 but already a seasoned director for the likes of Fatboy Slim, Dinosaur Jr, and the Beastie Boys, only met Björk the day before. The now-defunct Detour Magazine asked if he could shoot photos of her at Chateau Marmont for an interview. “We just went down to the pool and shot photos in the pool for two hours,” Jonze recalls, “It wasn’t a big production in any way. She was just roaming around the Chateau.” Thousands of photos were taken, but only six were published. Still, they became classics in the Björk canon, wonderfully capturing the spellbinding slyness that would catapult her to stardom with the album Post. Jonze shelved the outtakes and never revisited them until recently, when Leon—a friend and collaborator—unearthed them while helping organize his archives.

“When I came across these photos at Spike’s, I knew they were special and needed to be seen,” Leon says. So he organized and curated an exhibition of more than 25 previously unseen images from the photoshoot that opened yesterday at Arroz & Fun, his Los Angeles restaurant and gallery space. Presented with the support of WeTransfer, the show includes photographs, contact sheets, and a zine featuring a conversation between Leon and Jonze. “Many of these images, and the physical zine, can only be seen at the exhibition,” Leon tells Surface. “The digital nature of things is so easy today, but I really want people to feel the sense of discovery I felt when I uncovered these photos at Spike’s house, or when they opened that issue of Detour back in the day.”

Devoted Björk fans would be wise to read closely—Jonze reflects not only on how the video came together, but his experience capturing the enigmatic artist’s mesmeric mythos as she was entering her prime. Their friendship has remained constant since: “She’s this Icelandic punk who probably can drink a lot more vodka than, well… definitely can drink a lot more vodka than I could.”

“The Day I Met Björk” is on view at Arroz & Fun (1822 N Broadway, Los Angeles).

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