It helped that de Wilde's working style is nonintrusive — something she picked up from her father, an amateur photographer who captured icons of his time such as The Mamas and the Papas, Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankar. (Some of his photographs recently were exhibited at Paris store Colette alongside those of his daughter). The relaxed practice has made her beloved by subjects like multimedia artist July.
"Autumn was the first photographer I felt comfortable with. It was like we were hanging out," says July, who has since been inducted into de Wilde's extended "family" and thereby introduced to the Mulleavy sisters, whose after-show party she hosted this past fashion week.
"You completely trust Autumn," says Laura Mulleavy. "She has the most calming effect."
The result of de Wilde's hang-loose approach was rolls and rolls of film of Smith, as well as one video, for his song "Son of Sam." Combined with the interviews, they reveal Smith as a deeply emotional artist as well as a jokester with a sentimental streak. "It was a very positive time, even though he had dark days," remembers de Wilde, who spoke to Smith's former bandmates and roommates as well as more famous friends over a period of a year. "I loved talking to [indie musician] Dorien Garry — when they both agreed that the one song that neither of them could listen to all the way through without crying was Phil Collins' 'Against All Odds.' That's what I loved about Elliott. He could be so ridiculous."
But Smith's musical achievements — like an Oscar nomination for his "Good Will Hunting" song, "Miss Misery" — were countered by his drug addiction, which ultimately drove many of his old friends away.