While I was in Petaluma ten years ago this month, exploring the places I had written about in my biography of Winona Ryder, I met with Abby Minot, the photo stylist behind John Marriott's "Noni" before the star photographs. I met Abby at McNears next to the Mystic Theatre in the centre of town on a hot summer afternoon in April 2002. She kindly gave me a couple of litho prints that she and John had used in the 80s to promote their work. One featured Winona (which I have included in this post), and the other, Winona's sister, Sunyata.
Below is a transcript of a sound recording Abby made for me, three years before I met her, for a book project I was developing with John about the photos. It is her fascinating and detailed story of how she came across Winona and Sunyata, almost by accident, and became involved with styling over 50 images of both girls between 1984 and 1987.
I had it on my list of things to do before we actually connected with the Horowitzes about setting up a time to take photos of the girls. It took a couple of months before we connected. And I talked to Noni’s mother, Cindy on the phone, introduced myself, and this and that, and I think she probably met John earlier on at a meeting when I wasn’t there, just to check him out, to make sure that he wasn’t some kind of sleaze ball. I guess it always a little bit suspect. There are frequently creeps posing as photographers. I have no idea if Cindy had that concern, but I’m pretty sure she met John before I actually met Noni and Sunyata.
What happened was that we set up a weekend to take a bunch of photographs. The first weekend that we did, we had a bunch of different shots. We had Noni in what I refer to as the attic shot. She’s curled up in a big chair reading a book and surrounded by a lot of stuff that looks like it’s her own private little corner in an attic, and there were tons of props, most of them were mine, some of them were John’s. So we did that shot which was a major set up shot, it was a lot of moving a lot of stuff around. I remember that my truck was pretty darn full with stuff for that shot.
We did another shot that was a valentine shot which I got a swing for and a kind of frilly dress and a valentine and it was Noni on a swing, and then one of Sunyata in a teddy. It was some kind of sexy lingerie thing. She was on a floor that had squares of linoleum on it, and another shot of Sunyata in a lounge chair. Yes, she was in a bathing suit, I remember because I went shopping – did I go shopping with her? I think I did, because she and I were close to the same size, and I remember thinking, getting her measurements and I tried it on and I thought oh yeah, if it fits me, it’ll fit her. Anyway, so those were the four shots we did – we did them on the weekend of June 30 of 1984.