25th September 2014
David Bailey wasn’t the only portrait photographer around in the swinging sixties. Some other names were just as big – Terence Donovan, Brian Duffy, Norman Parkinson, Angus McBean – and slightly older photographers like John French and Cecil Beaton. Find three images from each of the photographers mentioned above. Carefully analyse at least one image by each photographer, compare and contrast the different portrait styles of the various photographers.
To become as famous a photographer as Cecil Beaton became his expertise in this medium had to be above average although some of his biographers considered him to be below average as a technician relying instead upon scene setting, the pose and his timing with the shutter release. Looking at the three images I’ve chosen I’d say that his technical expertise was certainly more than adequate and his talent for the other areas mentioned doesn’t come into it. Certainly his breadth of personal contacts, friends and the circles into which he had more or less automatic access provided him with the stock of celebrities and contacts within the publishing world he needed to start and keep his career at the forefront. His acceptance by the British royal family as their photographer of choice for many years for engagements, weddings and other formal occasions, along with the patronage shown to him by the Queen Mother, placed the seal of approval on his career and ensured his continued success.
The image of the young princess Elizabeth and prince Charles is an example of technical and timing excellence. To capture this moment of intimacy, not normally seen by anyone, of the royal family off duty and to also capture the scene is such an unguarded way proves he was a master of shutter timing and he must also have been very good at being unobtrusive as well. His technical skill is shown in the way that although the image was made partially into an un-curtained window, which makes a very high contrasting element against the darker paneling of the room and the un-drawn curtains, he has managed to ensure, during exposure and printing, the details one would expect to lose in the highlights and low-lights are still visible.