Unseen Brian Duffy photos of Lennon, Bowie and Caine Define an Era

John Lennon with UFO Detector, 1965
(Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive)


05 Feb 2018 | MARK BEECH | Blouinartinfo

“Try to define style of the 1960s and beyond and you may think of the Beatles, Michael Caine, Jean Shrimpton or David Bowie.

All of these were photographed by Brian Duffy to create some of the most famous images of their time, some of them now on show in London. The exhibition also includes some rare or unseen eye-popping pictures that illustrate London at the height of its fame.

“Sixties Style: Shot by Duffy” at the Proud Gallery near Charing Cross is worth a visit for anyone interested in photography or the artists featured. The works include John Lennon, smiling and holding what he jokingly claimed was a “UFO Detector”; Caine, distractedly smoking and deep in thought and conversation; Shrimpton, looking effortlessly cool; and – of course – many shots of David Bowie. Duffy photographed several Bowie covers including the thunderflashed “Aladdin Sane” in 1973.

There are many versions of this work available at all price levels. Select from black and white, color, the stare with the star’s remarkable eyes with the one pupil permanently dilated, contact sheets, side shots and out-takes, some signed by Bowie and Duffy.

Duffy, who died in 2010, is often bracketed with Terence Donovan and David Bailey as the first real celebrity photographers, named by Norman Parkinson as “the Black Trinity” of London lensmen.


As Duffy’s son Chris says in an interview: “It’s interesting because Duffy wasn’t just known as a rock photographer but he happens to have taken some of the most iconic images.”

Chris Duffy is a photographer himself and has been building up an archive of work. This is no mean feat when his father once tried to burn some negatives himself in a fit of temper. He worked for many clients and even now fresh material is continuing to be uncovered. Here are Chris’s comments on some of the images he picks.

John Lennon with UFO Detector, 1965 (shown above)

The Beatles had just played at Shea Stadium. John had picked up this box that basically had a switch on and off and the lights just flickered intermittently from one to the other arbitrary. John said it had been sold as a UFO Detector and he brought it along to the session. It was a funny prop that he just picked up in New York.

Jean Shrimpton, Studio Photograph, 1963

I met up with Jean last year. She still is fabulous and amazing. Duffy actually introduced Bailey to Shrimpton because they were at Vogue at that point. He said: “She is far too posh for you.” But then the rest is history.

When I went to see Jean, she pulled out a photo that Duffy shot, which was a Kellogg’s advert. Duffy was not just shooting for Vogue on an editorial front but he was also bringing in advertising. At that point he did not have his own studio so he used Vogue’s studios. They took a big commission off him, which was the reason that he ultimately left. But Jean had the original picture, which I had never seen.

E-Type Jaguar, Opening of the M1 Motorway, 1960

That was the very first Jaguar E-type convertible off the production line. And it is still in existence. I was watching a TV program on Jaguar and they were talking to the original designer. As the camera pulled back, it revealed the number plate which was 77 RW. I jumped up and said, “My God, that’s the car in the Vogue shot.” On further investigation, it had one owner and he had bequeathed it to the Jaguar museum who refurbed it. When Prince William’s sister in law Pippa Middleton got married, she was driven away in that very car.

You look at the M1, and at that time, there was a car like every 10 minutes. You could actually stop on the motorway and do a photographic shoot. Duffy tried to instill some energy in his pictures rather than those that came out in the 1950s with those rather stilted static images. He injected a sense of energy and reality into it. I often wonder, it is a bit inane really, is it facing north or is it facing south – towards London or away from it.


Ponte Vecchio Florence, 1962

It is a fabulous shot. Look at the guy on the scooter with his dark glasses on and staring back – not so much bothered by what’s in front of him, he is intrigued by what’s going on.

That was part of a series shot for Vogue and some of Duffy’s best location shots – they didn’t let him out of the studio that much because at that point he was a new photographer and they would be taking chances on him He only did two trips abroad for Vogue. One was to Ireland and other was to Florence and these are some of his best. Although he always claimed that he did his finest work for the French Elle magazine because they really gave him free range, whereas Vogue was more restrictive.

I went back because we had a retrospective at the National Alinari Museum in Florence about four years ago. I walked to all the places – the Ponte Vecchio and there is another one on Via Strozzi where there is a girl with a bunch of roses on the floor and dog-check tooth coat and a Mercedes coming around the corner. I stood at that very point and apart from a new set of traffic lights, the buildings and everything are exactly the same.


Love, Queen Magazine, 1968

That’s one of my sisters, Charly, and the boy was our next door neighbor, Peter Salmon, the son of John Salmon, quite a famous advertising executive. It is just a very cute, endearing picture, shot in King Henry’s Road, Swiss Cottage, where developers had knocked down a lot of the four-floor Victorian homes and it was just a building site. Someone had sprayed “Love” on the boarding – Duffy came across it, he didn’t spray it himself of course, and used it as a background.

Jane Birkin, Floating Queen, 1965

(Jane Birkin began her career as an actress, with a small role in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 movie “Blowup.”)

This shot was for Queen magazine – a prolific magazine and Duffy was one of their key photographers. Jane at that point was not massively famous, but it is a wonderful animated image of her flying. When you look at the contact sheet, he got her to jump on every single one. She must have been exhausted at the end of that shoot. It captured a mood and an atmosphere there.

Michael Caine Smoking, 1964

Every photographer has their own chemistry, the way they interact with the sitter to produce the end result. (David) Bailey’s technique was very much finding someone’s Achilles heel and putting them at ill at ease. (Terence) Donovan was very much the joker, making people laugh. But Duffy was the intellect. You can see this particularly in portraits – that he engaged the sitter in dialogue to the point where they forget they were actually being photographed. That was really Duffy’s talent to make people completely at ease, which they might not have ordinarily done. He managed to eke out really interesting looks and he always caught that animated sense. And of course he knew Michael very well, so Michael would already have been at ease with him.


Doublement Mieux, French Elle, 1963

Duffy loved working for French Elle. They gave him complete freedom. There were lots of French photographers working for the magazine who really didn’t want to travel around France. Elle’s viewpoint, with Peter Knapp as the art director in charge, was to really to try to get out the provinces. They didn’t want to be all Paris. They had a very good understanding, injecting that sense of fin and energy and making girls look like they owned the clothes. They were not just clothes horses.

Beach Shadow, Morocco, 1963

The model is Nicole de Lamarge, one of Duffy’s favorite 60’s models. [She tragically died in a car crash in 1969.] Whose hand is it? It could have been a fashion assistant. It is a mystery! Duffy loved that he would go away for a week with a fashion editor, couple of girls and a couple of suitcases and they would to provincial towns. It was a regular gig for 20 years, with a little break from 1968 to 1975 when Peter Knapp came back to Elle.

Paulene Stone, Color Gels, Town Magazine, 1963

Paulene was one of Duffy’s favorite models, a redhead who he famously used in two Pirelli calendars the 1965 and 1973. This used a series of different color gels and one of them was the cover. A lot of this today would be so easy using Photoshop, but he always played with new techniques and tried to push the boundaries.


Queen, Kings Road, 1968

The model is Jill Kennington, who also appeared in the cult movie “Blow Up.” There are a series of half a dozen of those pictures: the chair, mini-dress and Vidal Sassoon haircut encapsulate what we think of the swinging 1960s.

Sixties Style: Shot by Duffy is at Proud Central, 32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP through March 18. Information: https://www.duffyphotographer.com and https://www.proudonline.co.uk/exhibitions

All images courtesy of Proud Galleries, Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive


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