Photographer Bette Marshall was in the audience at one of the Cissy Houston performances in New York the night the gospel singer handed over the stage to a young backup singer. After the girl finished her exciting solo, Houston introduced the singer to the crowd: her daughter, the prestigious Whitney Houston.
Marshall realized that the young Houston was on the verge of a monumental career and, after the performance, told the Houston family that he was interested in recording her at that moment. The photographer headed to the Houston family home in New Jersey to take her first portrait of the singer.
In February, Marshall will release a collection of their early photographs in her book “Young Whitney,” an intimate portrait of pop icons who died nearly a decade ago on February 11, 2012. Marshall says in a photo and personal essay — an excerpt from the book below that she was invited to take a picture of Houston on her “Greatest Love of All” music video shoot set at the Apollo Theater in New York. ..
Session Eleven: Shooting “The Greatest Love of All Videos”, 1986:
Whitney, which I shot when I was a teenager, took the first tentative step in the music industry and became a full-fledged superstar in just three years. When she signed with Arista, the entire star-making device began to work perfectly.
In 1985, Whitney made an explosive appearance in the music scene. Her self-titled debut album, Whitney Houston, spent 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts with three Nos. “Saving All My Love for You,” “How You Know,” and “Greatest Love.” Produced one hit. All. “
I was invited to take a picture with a set of “Greatest Love of All” videos taken at the Apollo Theater. This is the first time I’ve shot superstar Whitney.
Apollo was a very good background for Whitney’s video at this stage of her career. Other greats, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, also graced Apollo’s stage early in their careers. From the outside, the Apollo Theater in Harlem looks like a normal building with a cinema marquee. But inside, its sacred hall and its grandeur fascinate you.
Upon entering, I noticed that the house was virtually empty, except for the active activity around the stage. When Cissy found me and waved to the stage area, I started walking down the aisle and marveled at the luxurious red velvet seats and golden decorative decorations.
Cissy appears in the video and plays Whitney’s mother. The video, with its semi-biographical and artistic elements of life, was, as I thought, a proper tribute to Cissy. After all, she helped her develop her wonderful talent and also helped her to grow in fame.
The previous scene was already shot. These vignettes showed that Whitney remembered himself as a high school girl with his mother. Then walk behind the scenes wearing a hip black leather jacket and gold-edged gloves. Then put on her makeup and sing into the mirror. Almost all frames take full advantage of Whitney’s still very young beauty.
Cissy has shown me where to stand on one side of the stage to get the most out of the vantage point of the photo I’m about to take. Whitney then appeared on stage for the in-performance part of the shoot. Like the finished video, she wore a white beaded dress and walked singing “Greatest Love of All.” And, like the video, she seemed to emit light.
Her appearance when she went out that day is one of the most relevant looks to Whitney Houston. I had a hard time reconciling the woman in front of me with Whitney, who I knew when I was a teenager and was taking pictures. With her upsweep hair and elegant bearings, Whitney was refined and there was a newly discovered sexy thanks to the prominent slits in her dress showing off one of her long legs. She still had that wonderful smile and incredible voice, but the extraordinary charm she is now radiating was something new.
The photo taken that afternoon shows a young woman at the pinnacle of her beauty, strength and talent. Whitney’s transformation from a shy teenager to a stunning singer was amazing in front of me.
Whitney found me, and her cognitive smile provided a momentary flash of girl I knew. She approached me and hugged me as usual. Before she returned to the set, we spoke briefly and said, “Now I have to be Whitney Houston.”
I wondered how it was a vehicle since that fateful night at Sweetwater’s. I was able to get a glimpse of this new world, the world of Whitney for the first time, but missed the personal connection that made my previous session with her very memorable. Whitney was now a full-fledged star. Whether at home, in the church, in an audition or in a recording studio, you can never regain the intimacy of an early session. This was the last time I shot her.
Excerpt from Bet Marshall’s “Young Whitney”. Published by Cinergistik, this book is only available at the Grammy Museum.
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