Kate Barry: Photographer

Daughter of Jane Birkin and John Barry who became acclaimed for the naturalness of her photography

When Kate Barry took up photography in the mid-1990s it was as much a defence mechanism as the inevitable outcome of half a lifetime in the public eye. “I was photographed a lot as a kid. It must have made an impression on me,” she said. “Letting someone take your picture involves a degree of trust and confidence that I don’t have. For a long time, my camera was a defence against the melancholy I felt.”

The daughter of the composer John Barry and singer and actress Jane Birkin, she had a knack for putting people, especially women, and especially actresses like Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Sophie Marceau, Monica Bellucci, Tilda Swinton and Helena Bonham Carter, at ease in front of the camera, capturing their essence and beauty. “Photography for me has always been about building a world around women,” she said.

She was in demand for her natural style which worked well in advertising, with campaigns for Lipton Tea, Pierre Cardin and Dior Perfumes and the mail-order company La Redoute, as well as magazines like Cosmopolitan, Elle, Le Figaro Madame, Paris Match and Vogue. She was aware that her family connections had given her an entrée into the world of what the French call les people. “To be fille de [the daughter of...] proved rather helpful. French people look kindly upon my whole family,” she admitted, referring to being brought up by Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg and alluding to the Birkin-Gainsbourg family tree.

One of France’s most photographed couples, and the duo responsible for the controversial 1969 UK chart-topper “Je T’Aime... Moi Non Plus”, Birkin and Gainsbourg met after Birkin’s marriage to Barry broke up. The infant Kate appeared in Slogan, the 1969 film on which they came together. Her extended family included actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, the only child from the Birkin-Gainsbourg relationship, and the actress, model and singer Lou Doillon, fathered by the film-maker Jacques Doillon, with whom Birkin and her daughters lived after she left Gainsbourg in 1980.

Kate Barry was born in London in 1967 and never gave up her British passport. “I figured that my 100 per cent British identity made me different from my sisters and that to keep it would keep me close to my roots,” she said. Her natural father made contact with her when Birkin split from Gainsbourg: “I discovered a part of my identity I didn’t know I had. I felt more complete.” Gainsbourg felt betrayed but he and Kate were soon reconciled.

She was a troubled teenager with an addictive personality, drinking and dabbling in drugs, and she failed her baccalauréat. Birkin pulled a few strings to get her into the Ecole De La Chambre Syndicale De La Haute Couture Parisienne, where she gained a diploma in fashion design. A spell in rehab in Britain and the birth of her son, Roman de Kermadec, in 1987, helped put her on the right track and she started a prêt-à-porter company, though Gainsbourg’s death in 1991, followed by the passing of her partner Pascal Huon de Kermadec, who had fathered Roman but had not managed to kick his drug habit, knocked her off her stride.

She founded the charity APTE – Aide et Prévention des Toxicodépendances par l’Entraide – with the aim of treating drug addicts with a form of therapy comparable to the approach of Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1994 she opened a free residential facility, the first of its kind in France, at the Château des Ruisseaux in Bucy-le-Long near Soissons.

She remained committed to this cause, even after switching from fashion to photography. “I took a few evening classes to get up to speed technically,” she recalled. “After a while, I realised that being a photographer was a proper job and not a game. I had always fooled around with Polaroid cameras as a child.” Many of her portraits retained a childlike, playful quality.

Her work sometimes involved her half-sisters as well as her mother, whom she photographed reclining for the cover of the 2004 duets album Rendez-Vous. She also shot Carla Bruni in a suitably languid pose for Quelqu’un M’a Dit, her best-selling 2003 debut. Barry’s other pop assignments demonstrated a certain amount of knowingness since they included the 1996 album France by France Gall, whose 1965 Eurovision winning song “Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son” had been written by Gainsbourg, and shoots with Vanessa Paradis, who had collaborated with Gainsbourg on her second album Variations Sur Le Même T’aime in 1990, as well as Benjamin Biolay, the multi-talented singer-songwriter-producer-actor who has often been called the new Gainsbourg.

She exhibited in Japan, Italy and France and was commended for her striking landscapes and distinctive portraits, particularly of the workers at Rungis, an assignment she completed to mark the 40th anniversary of the wholesale market for fresh produce. Two years ago she collaborated with the writer Jean Rolin on an unusual book, Dinard: Essai D’Autobiographie Immobilière, about the Britanny coastal town where Rolin grew up. Barry felt at home there as it reminded her of the British seaside towns she had visited with her father. Asked to compare herself to a landscape, she replied she would be “a nice little shrub shaking in the wind on a Scottish or Welsh moor.” Barry was found dead after falling from the window of her 4th-floor apartment in Paris. Foul play is not suspected.

Kate Barry, photographer: born London 8 April 1967; one son with Pascal Huon de Kermadec; died Paris 11 December 2013.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama