Behind-the-scenes portraits of 70s stars including the Rolling Stones and David Bowie go on display in Bath

Report by Victoria Davies

An exhibition has opened in Bath celebrating some very famous names, including The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Eric Idle.

It is the work of photographer and former model Carinthia West from St Ives, who has taken many behind-the-scenes pictures of some of the most well-known faces on the planet.

Sat in front of a photo of Mick Jagger, she described the moment she snapped it. "We went for a walk on the beach and I like it because he's got three-day growth, he's not looking in the slightest bit posed, the diamonds flashing in his tooth," she said.

"And he loves it as well, he really likes that photograph."

Monty Python star Eric Idle and former Beatle George Harrison in 1976. Credit: Carinthia West

'Shooting Stars' runs from Friday 21 May to Sunday 31 October at the American Museum and Gardens, and features a collection of 63 intimate natural portraits and lifestyle shots taken in America and the UK by the former ‘It Girl'. 

Carinthia West was discovered as a model at the age of 16 standing at a bus stop in London by Beatles’ photographer Robert Whitaker. It gave her access to the lives of the famous and she always had her camera to hand.

Rolling Stones stars Ronnie Wood and Mick Jagger on Malibu Colony Beach in 1976.

Carinthia photographed all those who crossed her path, whether on the set of a film or at parties at Ronnie Wood’s Malibu beach house. She became close personal friends with the stars, and in turn they allowed her to photograph them during their downtime.

Carinthia said: “All the photographs in this exhibition were based on trust, friendship and respect; we were just having fun together and I happened to have my camera.”

Her photos document her close personal friendships with people like Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, George Harrison, Eric Idle, Shelley Duvall, Helen Mirren, Neil Young, and Anjelica Huston, as they enjoyed life away from the limelight.

Mick Jagger sleeping at Cedars-Sinai hospital while Ronnie and Krissy Wood's son Jesse was being born in 1976.

One series of shots, called the ‘Long Night’, documents the night that Ronnie Wood’s son Jesse was born. This involved a last-minute dash to the hospital in Neil Young’s hearse, during one of Ronnie’s parties. These extremely intimate personal shots show expectant father Ronnie and band mate Mick Jagger waiting in the hospital for the arrival of the Wood’s first child.

Carinthia said: "I was an accepted friend and trusted. Nowadays people are very wary of a camera coming out because we're all so obsessed with image and Instagrammable things whereas we weren't then. 

"For example, when Jesse James Wood was born no-one would take a camera into a hospital now and photograph The Rolling Stones hanging out, waiting for a baby to be born for 24 hours and it was fine then."

Carinthia goes on to tell the full story, saying: "It was hilarious. Ronnie and Krissy Wood had rented a house in the Malibu colony and every night was a party and Ronnie would stay up until 5 or 6 in the morning. There were loads of well-known people there.

"I was the only person really holding Krissy's hand. She was upstairs and suddenly her waters were breaking. I was ringing the doctor and the only phone was in the kitchen so I was running up and down the stairs. 

"The doctor said get her right now to Cedars-Sinai Hospital. So I had to disperse all these famous people, get Ronnie by the scruff of his neck and Mick and say we're going to the hospital now. Neil Young had his hearse there, which he used for his guitars when he did a gig and his driver was the only sober person there.

Mick Jagger with Ronnie Wood and baby Jesse in Malibu in 1977. Credit: Carinthia West

"Mick was in the front, Ronnie and I in the back with Krissy holding her hand and we laid her out on cushions. Police stopped us on Sunset Boulevard and then realised what was happening and escorted us to hospital.

"We arrived at the hospital and they whisked Krissy away and then we were all holding our breath. It was really very worrying, it was taking a lot longer than we thought so a lot of my photographs in the original contact sheet are us looking very tense and we had to wait but in the end a healthy baby boy was born."

The filming of Pink Floyd's iconic Animals album cover at Battersea Power Station in 1976. Credit: Carinthia West

Carinthia was also there when Pink Floyd's iconic album cover Animals was shot in London. She said: "I was a friend, took a camera, happened to be there, shot the ones you see here of the pig which then cut loose and flew away and ended up in a field in Kent.  

"You would photoshop that now. You wouldn't go to the expense of an enormous inflatable pig above Battersea Power Station with a marksman ready to shoot it down should there be an incident. The marksman had been the day before and no one had bothered to pay him, so he didn't bother to turn up."

Carinthia captured a host of 70s stars on camera, including a youthful David Bowie. Credit: Carinthia West

Most of the photos in the Shooting Stars exhibition have spent years stored away in shoeboxes in the attic. Carinthia was prompted to put them on display by her Godchildren.

She said: "My Godchildren didn't really know I'd had that kind of life. They said, 'Oh my gosh you've got pictures of David Bowie and The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. You must show them!

"I was very shy about it in a way but they said, 'You must!'

"So I went to every person in the photographs to ask their permission. So that was the beginning on a kitchen table about 10 years ago."

Carinthia West at her exhibition in Bath, still keeping her camera close to hand. Credit: ITV West Country

Carinthia says she has files and files of negatives she has not even looked at yet so expect more revelations to come.

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