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1956 - Michel Haddi is born in Paris. He is the only child of a French soldier who he’s never met, and his mother Halima Haddi, an Algerian woman of Turkish, Moroccan and Berber origin.
Michel spends a number of years in a Catholic orphanage, the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris while Halima is employed in a smart Parisian hotel.
Hotel guests often leave fashion magazines behind and Halima gives them to Michel. Copies of Vogue Magazine fascinate him; the lives of the rich and the famous fascinate him and the photography… always the photography fascinates him.
Early stages of Career
At the age of 18, Michel has a crush on a photo by Helmut Newton that made the cover of Vogue. At the time, he has two jobs: his first, as a waiter in a very well-known gay restaurant provides the perfect opportunity to see all the stars of the moment when they come to have a drink, and a second, as night watchman at the Hotel des Bains provides plenty of downtime to think about what he really wants to do with his life. His dream is to leave Paris and become a photographer.
1976 - Michel leaves Paris for Saudi Arabia where he works for three months as an electromechanical technician and supplements his income with trafficking of all kinds.
1977 - A chance meeting with Ben Lee, photographer, sees Michel became his assistant and he relocates to London.
1979 - Just two years later, Michel’s fashion shoot of the model-of-the moment Gail Elliot appears in the Daily Mail.
1980 - Michel opens his first studio and meets Victor Herbert, who becomes his mentor. It proves to be a successful meeting and before long, his first photo for American GQ is published; during that same year, his work appears in Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode,
1981 - Shoots for Vogue.
- Commissioned by Alberto Nodolini, the art director of Vogue Italia, to photograph the first in a series of fashion works for Vogue Italy and Vanity Italia.
1985 - Shoots for British Vogue and meets John Hind, the creative director who becomes a life-long friend, and Lucinda Chambers, Beauty Editor.
1985 - Michel meets Franca Sozzani and her team from Italy’s Lei and Per Lui; Sozzani’s only brief? Impress me! And so with artistic freedom in his lap, he produces monthly images for both the magazines to much acclaim.
1986 - Michel lives and works between London, Paris and Milan, and photographs the biggest stars of the day such as Uma Thurman, Johnny Depp and Nicolas Cage…
1989 - Michel leaves Europe for New York and shoots for the best magazines on the East coast: Andy Warhol’s legendary Interview, being one of them. A series of shots of British Super Model Kate Moss are used in Bloomingdale's stores across the US, broadcast on television screens and posted on many shop windows throughout the United States.
1991 onwards - Michel works extensively in England for: The Face, Arena, Vogue, GQ and Tatler amongst others, and then moves into fashion advertising campaigns for luxury brands such as: Lee Cooper, Replay, Givenchy, Guerlain, Armani …
1992 - Settles in Los Angeles where he photographs Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Clint Eastwood and David Bowie and many, many others.
Wanting to flex his creative muscle in others fields he creates a movie on Susan Bottomly, also known as International Velvet, the muse of the Factory, with Stach de Rola (Balthus’s son) and Barbara Steel (icon of Fellini). It takes the form of a false documentary about a supposed meeting between a journalist (played by Michel) and International Velvet. It tells the story of Susan Bottomly’s life through her own testimony and those of people that have known her.
1996 - Michel returns to New York because the he felt that life in Los Angeles had become “too sanitised and devoid of culture.” Seeking pastures new he journeys to the Equator for Esquire, Morocco for Premiere and Marie Claire, and to the Yemen for Cosmopolitan. At that time, Yemen had seen a civil war and was unsafe for foreign nationals, but Michel’s surname ‘Haddi’ is the name of one of the most influential tribes of the Country, the Haddi, and so Michel and his team were not only safe, but treated with great hospitality.
1998 - Michel is commissioned by Premiere to cover the Cannes film festival. Over 15 days he photographs 135 personalities; the great and the good, He is now part of the world he had been fascinated by as a child in the glossy magazines his mother had brought him, but Paris still calls to him and in 2002, he returns home a different man.
2004 - Commissions with Adriana Karembeu, in Cabo San Luca, Mexico for Stern Magazine, and Emporio Armani in the house of Mies Van Der Rohe, Barcelona follow. He shoots the national football team of France, Champions of the World at the time, for an editorial in L’Uomo Vogue.
2007 - Michel buys a house in Marrakesh for a change of scenery and to get fresh ideas. He develops a line of perfumes, jewellery rings and fabrics.
2004 - Michel publishes a first opus Acid in Wonderland and creates his publishing company One Eyed Jacks Ltd. In 2005, he publishes the book I love America, don’t you? which is released globally.
“I wanted to be free, an independent producer.”
2006 - Michel Haddi Studio Ltd opens in London and publishes all the titles he produces, finally becoming MHS publishing in January, 2013.
He produces and publishes the following bookazines: Surf and Turf, Paris Dream On Baby, Berlin, Made in the USA, Brazil, and 1001 Nights, which all illustrate his experiences and meetings from his travels. Then comes God Save the Queen (a tribute to the new punk attitude with Coco Sumner, the daughter of Sting, as a guest star), Happy Birthday, Glamour Puss (to celebrate Jean Paul Gaultier’s 30-years in fashion at the Olympia), My Love (a love poem based upon William Shakespeare's sonnets), Blue a Whipping Delight (well before 50 Shades of Grey furore is a free adaptation of both Histoire d’O from Pauline Reage and Venus in Furs from Sacher-Masoch), Pop Sex (an opus based on Pop Art and a journey through eroticism), Sly 'n’Chic (a new music and fashion magazine with Janet Jackson on the cover).
Michel’s work, internationally recognised, has been the subject of several exhibitions, including:
- The Neal St Gallery in 1982
- A Group Show in Tokyo and Kobe in 1986 for The Face
- A Group Show for the Festival of the Fashion Photo in Budapest, Paris, Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Biarritz
- A show in 1990 at the Festival of the Fashion Photo in New-York City, in homage to Yves Saint Laurent
- Art Paris 2012, "Young Gallery"
- A show in 2012 in Dubai under the aegis of Princess Al Sabah, this last exposition and related media exposure making Michel known in a few days all over the Arabic World.
1985 - Michel’s movie portraying the boxer Stephane Ferrara won a prize by the Center of French cinema followed in 1994, by “A.K.A”, a movie on International Velvet.
2013 - Michel shot and released Roma, a movie about 3 boxers from Rome
2015 - Michel directs a 15mm film for the brand Milano Fontana
Michel has been married once to Debra Berkin and they have two sons, Sean and Tyrone.
Martial arts has always been a passion for Michel - he began learning Karate Shito Riyou at 18 years of age with Grand-Master Satoru Nino, who, in 2000, became the World Director of the Esmod School of Design. Michel has now being practicing martial arts for more than thirty years and has seen him travel to Thailand, to the Muy Thai training camps, but after an accident, he decided to study meditation techniques with Sai Baba and Guru Mai. The education that he received from these two mentors was deeply influenced by Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism. In the last few years, Michel has also become a fervent follower of the Arnis, the Filipino fighting art.
“Photo is the perfect replica of a martial art; one has to create always, to learn to discover the beauty of the universe and especially to possess the instinct which makes a success out of a good image.”
“When I was in Berlin to shoot the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1989, we were working in a studio and, suddenly, we hear people all around us shouting, their eyes glued to TVs, because there are thousands of people outside, in the streets. They go together to the Berlin Wall, to break it. We stop everything and join them. I photograph the RHCP breaking the wall. We are part of a crowd of millions. It was such a big moment!"
"Tangier, in 1986. I am there to photograph Paul Bowles for the English Sunday magazine The Independent. Everything is complicated because he has no telephone and, in order to communicate with him, we have to send him a courier with a written word. If he returns with one "yes", it means it is ok for the photo. Otherwise, we can forget it. Finally, Mr. Bowles agrees. We make an appointment at the Minzah, hotel At this point he asks me, “Are you native of the Maghreb?” I answer him in the affirmative. He catches my eyes with his piercing blue eyes and asks me, “You know why you are here?” I answer by saying that it is to photograph him. He looks at me again: but do I know the real reason of my presence in Morocco? I answer that I do not. Looking at me, he says: “Young man, one day, you will know why.” It has taken me 25 years to understand the true meaning of his question ".