If you're a fan at all of Madonna, you know about her 1985 Playboy spread and the classic down and out story that led to it: In 1979, a then-broke and unknown Madonna posed nude for a photography class for a fee of $30. Years later, when her first single "Everybody" topped the charts in 1982, one photographer who had been in that class, Martin Schreiber, recognized her and sold his negatives to Playboy. Meanwhile, the other photographers' work has languished in obscurity for the last 32 years, unseen -- until tonight.
As it turns out, one of the photos somehow ended up at Denver's Camera Obscura Gallery, a longtime Denver photography staple slated to close this spring and was found there by local photographer and Madonna fan Shannon Piserchio, who was intrigued enough to set out on an epic quest to find the rest of the photos. Here's that story, from a Bookery Nook press release:
Searching the internet, Shannon stumbled upon a photo credited to Martin Schreiber: a headless, black and white image of Madonna. Shannon could tell by the shadows on the body that the photo she bought from the gallery and the photo she found on the internet were taken in the same place. But what most people won't notice is that they were taken at the exact same moment. "On the left breast, the shadow falls across the nipple. The shadow on the shoulder is the same, and even the shadow crossing the sternum is in the same spot. If the photos weren't taken at the same time, they were taken within seconds of each other."
This meant two things: One, another photographer was present at the photo shoot. And two, the photo Shannon purchased couldn't have been taken by Schreiber. Shannon decided other photographers' photos must be somewhere. She found Schreiber's email address online and contacted him. He revealed there there were, in fact, other photographers. Five to be exact. But he didn't know who or where they were. Shannon went back to The Camera Obscura to ask about the Madonna photo. Hal Gould, the owner, told her two guys sold the photos to the gallery in the 90's, but he knew nothing else.
Finally, Shannon returned to the internet where she found a blogger had posted on Schreiber's photo. She contacted the blogger via Facebook to see if he knew who the other photographers were. But Shannon didn't hear back from him. Instead, she received an email concerning the blog post from a man named Tom Macurdy. It turns out the original photographer, Joseph Threadgill, gave his ten photographs to his friend, Macurdy, a lawyer at the time.
But Macurdy had no motivation to sell the photographs. He locked the photos in a filing cabinet for nine years. But now, thanks to Shannon's expert detective work, the never-before-seen photos will have an outlet for the first time this week in Shannon's own Denver bookstore, The Bookery Nook.
"Mr. Threadgill's photographic efforts show Madonna more attractively than Schreiber, " Macurdy said. "They are better from an artistic point of view, although I am not a photographer myself."
The photos go on display tonight at a reception at the Bookery Nook at 7 p.m., and will remain on display there until March 31.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.