Duffy Photographs Rise From The Ashes

Brian Duffy

New Exhibition The Lost Portraits Resurface At Proud

A new exhibition of the lost portrait photographs of Brian Duffy at the Proud Gallery in Chelsea opens on 22 March. This is an exclusive collection of rare, signed prints from sixties music and fashion photographer, Brian Duffy. Taken from an archive after the late photographer attempted to burn most of his negatives in 1979, this exhibition boasts some of Duffy’s most iconic remaining fashion and celebrity portraits.

Nicknamed the “Terrible Trio” by newspapers, and the “Black Trinity” by Norman Parkinson, Duffy revolutionised British fashion photography in the 1960s along with David Bailey and Terence Donovan. Unlike many photographers, these controversial artists took their models on to the streets and snapped them with newfangled, small 35mm cameras. Duffy started his photographic career freelancing for Harpers Bazaar in the mid 1950s and in 1957 he was hired by Vogue, where he remained until 1963 shooting models like Jean Shrimpton. Duffy: The Lost Portraits exhibits a range of this striking and innovative fashion photography alongside renowned portraits of John Lennon, Michael Caine and David Bowie (in particular the famous Aladdin Sane album cover, shot in 1973).

One day in 1979, after a particularly testing day in his studios, Duffy tried to burn all of his negatives. Only a number of images were saved. Speaking in a series of interviews before his death in 2010, he said of that day: “I decided to knock it on the head, and that I would never take another picture. I decided to burn all my negatives in the garden. I felt everything I had to do and say in photography had been done. Later I wished I’d kept some negs. Looking back on odd things we’ve found, I’d love to have known the sequence of prints, only from an historical point of view. You make decisions in one period that you wouldn’t necessarily make in another. But it’s stimulating to try something new, it’s interesting to be crazy.” More than 50 years since his first commission as a fashion photographer, Proud Chelsea is delighted to host this exclusive and rare collection of signed prints from Brian Duffy. Salvaged from the bonfire and found among friends’ archives, these remaining images are a tribute to a true photographic legend.

Brian Duffy was Born 15 June 1933, Brain Duffy grew up in North London with his Irish parents. He attended a school for “difficult boys” in South Kensington and was exposed to the arts via a London City Council outreach programme. He was encouraged apply to study painting at St Martins School of Art but decided to study dress design instead. In 1950, he went on to work as an assistant designer for Victor Stiebel before freelancing as a fashion artist for Harper’s Bazaar. He then received his first photographic commission from Ernestine Carter, then fashion editor of the Sunday Times. In 1957, Duffy was hired by Vogue, where he remained until 1963 photographing some of the most famous models of the period.

Duffy worked for Glamour, Esquire, The Observer, The Times and The Daily Telegraph as well as two long spells with French Elle during the 60s. His work included social reportage at home and abroad, but he remains best known for his illustrious line of portrait sitters in the 60s, which included everyone from Harold Wilson to Reggie Kray. Among the many musicians and actors who sat for Duffy were Sammy Davis Jr, Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Sidney Poitier, Harold Wilson, Charlton Heston and Brigitte Bardot.

Duffy began to dabble in films in the late 60s and set up a company with the novelist Len Deighton in 1967 going on to produce Only When I Larf (1968) and an attempted remake of Oh! What a Lovely War after seeing Bailey perform at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. Commercial projects included the album cover for David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane (1973) and award-winning advertising campaigns for Smirnoff vodka and Benson & Hedges cigarettes in the 70s.

Duffy died at the age of 76, on 31 May 2010. Duffy… Photographer, a collection of Duffy’s prints and an accompanying biography, was published in 2011 by Antique Collectors’ Club.

Above Photo: Queen Magazine, 1965 © Duffy  Jane Birkin, 1

Visit The Exhibition

Exhibition runs at the Proud Chelsea  22nd March 2012 – 13th May 2012


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