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John Lichfield, Paris
Thursday 12 December 2013
The fashion photographer Kate Barry, the daughter of the actress and singer Jane Birkin, has been found dead after falling from the window of her apartment in Paris.
Barry, 46, was the daughter of Birkin and the composer John Barry, who wrote many James Bond film themes. She fell from her fourth floor flat in the upmarket 16th arrondissement on Wednesday.
The flat was locked from the inside and no one else was present. Foul play is not suspected but an investigation is under way to decide whether the fall was an accident or whether Barry took her own life. French police sources told the newspaper Le Figaro that anti-depressant drugs were found at the scene.
Kate Barry’s photographs of fashion and actresses often featured in Vogue, Elle and Paris Match. She had a much-praised exhibition of her work, entitled “Point of View, portraits, still life”, in Paris until last month.
Her parents split up soon after she was born in 1967. Until she was 13, Barry was raised partly by her mother’s most celebrated partner, the French song-writer and singer, Serge Gainsbourg. She was the half-sister of the actresses Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon. She had a son, Roman de Kermadec, who was born in 1987. Her father died in 2011.
In an interview with the newspaper Libération last year, Barry said that, unlike most of the rest of her family, she had decided to work behind, rather than in front of the camera lens.
“I chose a job which shows off things,” she said. “I was always being photographed as a child. That must have had an effect.”
In another interview, she said she first fell in love with photography when she used Gainsbourg’s Polaroid camera when she was a child. “Serge was a control freak but he let me use it,” she said.
“I thought there was something miraculous in the way that the images emerged almost straight away. For a long time, I though of photograpy as a game, rather than a profession.”
Barry had a history of substance abuse as a young woman, including a stay in a London clinic at the age of 17. In 1993, she helped to found an alcohol and drugs abuse treatment centre near Paris.
The French culture minister, Aurélie Filippetti, paid tribute to Barry for her “great pictorial sense”. She was “an outstanding photographer” who understood “the very meaning of pictures, staging, light and composition”, she said.
“We send our affectionate thoughts to her sisters and to Jane Birkin, a family loved by all French people,” Ms Filippetti added.