Paris Match

Barbara Rix-Sieff on Her Photogenic Marriage

The late photographic legend Jeanloup Sieff’s and his wife Barbara Rix-Sieff were based in Paris from 1970 until September, 2000, when he passed away. A former-model, she is now a photographer herself, and is the co-editor of Les indiscrètes, a new book of previously unpublished works by her husband, available from Steidl. Their life was glamorous to be sure, but also a barrel of laughs, she says.

How did you meet Jeanloup?

We worked together: model and photographer. It was for Vogue, with Yves Saint Laurent clothes.

When was this?

In 1969, of course. I had seen his photos before, but I had only just started to work, so I was not into fashion at all. It was one of my early jobs. I worked a lot after, less with him. It was different with him.

What was your first impression of him?

I was over the moon. He was very good-looking. I was more impressed with the man than his work at the beginning. I was very different then. I was very… flower power. I had lived in Germany, I didn’t go to exhibitions. I wanted to become a doctor when I was young.

But this all changed when you were a teenager?

Don’t speak about age! I was quite young. I came to Paris, I started to live here. I thought, 'I will learn French.' At that time, before studying, people traveled a lot, so I went to Paris and Rome, just to see what happens.

And then how did you get into modeling, were you spotted?

I was spotted every day. It’s true! I couldn’t believe it. I had never thought about being a model.

When did you marry Jeanloup?

Oh, years after we met. We stopped working with each other, because it’s different when you live together and work together. It can be heavy. It depends how you feel about it.

What was it like living with him?

He was very busy, but he had a very good [sense of] humor. He laughed a lot, which is important when you live with somebody. He was fascinating: he wrote very well, and when he spoke, he didn’t speak in slang like me—he spoke very well and was funny.

His humor comes across in the work.

Looking at his books, a lot of people see the images and they don’t read. He said there was often a little joke in the captions. The photos can look dramatic and he was not dramatic at all. He was very traditional, very open and impressed by people.

Do you have a favorite photograph he took of you?

Well, nothing from the first shoot when we met nor any of our fashion pictures. It would be a normal picture, a picture of life. It’s strange to be a model, because you become somebody else in a way… not you. I am not a model who puts her own pictures on the wall. I just thought of modeling as a very easygoing thing, with lots of travel. After we were together, we didn’t work so much because it was a normal relationship. I would come home from shooting, in full makeup, big eyes, and he would say, 'Oh, take that shit off!'  We had a lot of fun together. Maybe everyone says this about their husband, but he was exceptional.

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