Photographer Mario Sorrenti reveals how he was obsessed with former girlfriend Kate Moss

Why are you so obsessed with me?

Text: Renée Batchelor

Image: Calvin Klein

If you are old enough to remember Calvin Klein's Obsession ads in 1993, you'll be surprised to see the brand revisiting images of a young Kate Moss for the new Obsessed campaign

If only we all had talented ex-boyfriends who could document us in such forgiving light. The year was 1993 and a then-18 year old Kate Moss was shot by her then-boyfriend, Italian photographer Mario Sorrenti for Calvin Klein's Obsession campaign. Stripped clean of heavy makeup and overdone hair, the purity and power of Moss' stunning beauty shone through in the visuals and film shot by Sorrenti in the Virgin Islands. Fast forward 24 years later and its no wonder the brand wanted to revisit these iconic images for the updated fragrances, Obsessed For Men and Women. 

The fragrances are both housed in weighty, transparent glass bottles that belie the power of the clear juices inside. Obsessed for Men is an especially heady fougère thanks to notes of dark vanilla, amber and woods. The woman's scent, an Oriental aromatic green, has notes of white lavender and musk — subverting these traditionally male ingredients — but also has touches of violet leaf, purple sage and neroli. These are thoroughly modern scents, so it's interesting that Calvin Klein went back to the archives to dig these images up. Says Pieter Mulier, the brand's creative director, "One of the first things we did when we arrived at Calvin Klein was look at the Obsession archive. It was then that we discovered so many images that had never been seen and began to really understand the true love story behind Kate and Mario's campaign. It is a story of an iconic and inspiring moment in fashion photography as much as a deeply personal and human love story, the two are intertwined and can never really be replicated again. We wanted to look back on both and explore them in a new way, while making the scent very much part of this story. We wanted memory, the visual and the sensual to intertwine today."

And Sorrenti himself, now an established fashion photographer, recalls the emotions he was feeling at the time, "I was so passionate about photography, and Kate and I were in love... I loved photographing her. She was the closest person to me. I would take pictures of her all of the time, and sometimes it drove her crazy, and other times she loved to be part of it. We had really good times. We were young, and I was never again so obsessed or so in love with photographing one person." The voyeur in us can't help but inwardly squeal at these unused images dug up from the archives — a paen to the '90s but also timeless — that bear a startling intimacy and emotion. Find out more from Sorrenti on this campaign.

What was the creative process like for Obsession?
It was very natural and instinctive, just Kate and I going off and making pictures. I had a Bolex and my Pentax, and even though we were sent there to work, it felt like we were on vacation. It was personal and intimate.

What was it like working with Kate at that time? How would you describe your relationship?
It was great. We were young and in love and I loved photographing her. When we did Obsession she was 18 and I was 20, just starting out in our lives with no pressure about anything. We were just going off and having fun.

Kate Moss for Obsessed

Why do you think Obsession became such an iconic campaign?
I have no idea! I don't know why it became iconic, it just did. I didn't really approach it with the intention of taking iconic pictures. We didn't know what we were going to do. We were just going to make something intimate and beautiful and simple. Looking back, maybe it became iconic because it was honest. All of the sudden people were going crazy about it. It became very controversial. Some loved it and others hated it. Maybe it was too personal for some. The ones that loved it were mostly our age. It was very intense.

What is the concept for the Obsessed campaign?
The concept for the Obsessed campaign is about revisiting those pictures and bringing them back as memories. There was a lot of material that hadn't been used and had never been seen. Hours of 16mm footage. It's about the old prints, that archive of work, going through old contact sheets, re-editing, discovering new images, you know, reliving that time and those photographs and films.

What is it like revisiting such a decisive moment?
It's been very special. There have been great people working on the project, so it's been a pleasure. But it's also very emotional, obviously. Bringing back a lot of old memories-that's been interesting. It's amazing to see those eyes again. I like that... How has your creative process changed from then to today? It's changed a lot. Well, I have more people helping me now — that's amazing — and it's much more focused. Back then it was very instinctive. I was still learning a lot about photography, you know, about the art and the craft of it. I was very naïve. I think today I'm much more aware of what I'm doing.

From $68-$151. Available from October 2017