Meet Amy before she was the global icon Amy Winehouse.

V’s Greg Foley chatted with Charles Moriarty about the stories behind the images in his show “Back To Amy,” from the book of the same name.

For the first time in North America and 12 years after she graced the stages of SXSW, the “Back to Amy” exhibit opened this week to reaction, contemplation, and celebration. The vibrant photo showing gives a rare glimpse into the life of 19-year-old Amy Winehouse just prior to the release of her celebrated first album, Frank. London-based photographer Charles Moriarty, whose work with artists includes Hercules and Love Affair and Damon Albarn, showed his intimate collection of portraits at Austin’s Holy Roller along with performances by rising British artists like Cambridge-based KYAN, all produced by Gabriel Gornell of LocoDistro. Moriarty’s images show a young woman on the verge of something bigger than she could ever imagine, her signature retro look and beehive coif beginning to form, but with an unmistakable look of vibrancy that seemed to fade away as she began down the path of superstardom and substances.  “The Amy I knew was intelligent, talented, and funny. She was only 19, but had a great sense of herself and her music. She wasn’t interested in fame and she wasn’t into drugs. The vision people often have is so different from the girl I knew. And this exhibit turns back the clock,” Moriarty explained. Amy is instantly recognizable but these images document a fleeting moment before she became a cultural giant and was, simply, “Amy.”

Amy with Guitar on Grimsby st, London, June 2003.  “This was from the first roll I shot with Amy, taken very shortly after the album cover for Frank, we were wandering along the streets near my home, Amy’s gaze feels so strong and powerful here. She’s certainly not just a 19 year old girl, she is Amy Winehouse.”

Portrait with curlers, New York, July 2003.
“We sat in my cousin Dan’s studio apartment, that happened to be in the Ritz Tower, and we waited, for the massive thunder and lightning storm to depart.
All our afternoon spent running through downtown Manhattan searching for appropriate locations was wasted, we ate Chinese food from a Deli on Lexington, and drank wine out of what seemed a ridiculously over sized bottle. I was anxious to get shooting so, while we waited and talked about art, and Amy played her recently recorded backing tracks with Commissioner Gordon, I started to take photos.”


Amy with Roses, New York, July 2003
“Eventually the rain did stop, sometime late into the night we dived into a yellow cab and went down town to shuffle among the night time crowds and the remnants of the deluge. I saw someone selling roses on the corner and bought Amy a bunch, she turned and said to me, ‘Are you going to Marry me Charlie Moriarty,’ I went bright red and sheepishly smiled while hiding behind my camera and Amy looked back.”

Amy Sings, New York, July 2003. “Further on from the roses we stopped momentarily and I asked Amy to sing me something, it was quiet where we were so she just started improvising. Very shortly after this I called it a night, we were tipsy and tired, so headed home.”

Guitar in machine, New York, July 2003.
“The following morning after shooting downtown, we woke and had several hours before Amy would depart for Miami to record with Salaam Remi. I remember feeling very worried about what we had shot, [that] we didn’t have enough. So Amy started pulling clothes from her suitcase, I put on the coffee, and within half an hour we began to explore the halls of The Ritz Tower. It would have to be our back drop, as we had no time for anything else. One of the first locations we explored was the laundry room in the basement. How rock-and-roll; we were shoving a guitar in the washer. One can’t help but roll one’s eyes a little, but then grin at the wonderful lack of care that youth allows.”

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