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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Photography's impact on the 60s
David Bailey
Bailey: Forefront of 60s fashion photography
David Bailey and other photographers from the 1960s did not merely record the era, they helped to shape it. A programme on BBC Two examines how photography has influenced fashion and style.

Fashion photography came of age in the 1960s.

From inauspicious roots in the East End of London, David Bailey and Terence Donovan began to transform the art of photography by anticipating other movements and styles before anybody else had imagined them.

Thanks to their innovation, they and other photographers were soon to become as famous as the people they photographed.

There really wasn't people where we came from being photographers

Terence Donovan
Bailey's first taste of fashion came when he saw his mother trying on a Dior coat in Selfridges.

"I remember her swirling around against the back light, and I thought: 'My God, it's so beautiful'.

"It was sort of back lit, and I didn't know what back lit was in those days.

"That was the first vision of a woman I really had."

A photograph by famous French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson then changed his view of photography for ever.

Terence Donovan's photograph of a model halfway up a gasometer
Donovan put his models in unusual settings
The picture, showing four Indian ladies in saris looking across a valley, inspired him to think: "My God, that's done with a camera.

"That was the first time I realised that photography was a bit more than just a recording machine," he said.

Donovan, another East End boy, started taking photographs in 1951.

His talent was established early on when, in 1953, he won a medal at the Bethnal Green camera club for a picture he had taken two years earlier.

Donovan, who died in 1996, said it was not easy pursuing his chosen career.

Jean Shrimpton
Bailey photographed Shrimpton for an Oxfam campaign
"Everything was against people like Bailey and I becoming photographers," he said.

"He was designed to be a tailor's assistant, and I was going to be loading sugar down Tate & Lyle."

After National Service, both Bailey and Donovan worked for John French's studios that were "a finishing school for photographers", according to Brigid Keenan, fashion editor of the Sunday Times in the 60s.

However this was still a static era in which models posed in prescribed ways.

Jill Kennington (photograph by John Cowan)
John Cowan showed Jill Kennington's adventurous side
Bailey set up his own studio in 1960 and was able perfectly to exploit the way newspapers and magazines were tapping into the new youth market.

Marit Allen, fashion editor of Vogue: Young Idea, 1963-72, described the era as "the first time young people wanted to be themselves".

Bailey was catapulted into the public eye by his 1960 Autumn Girl photograph of a model kneeling on the floor and appearing to kiss a squirrel.

Donovan told Bailey at the time: "This picture's a breakthrough."

No fashion picture had ever been taken like that before. It was a great slap of excitement

Mary Quant
Fashion designer
Fashion designer Mary Quant added that no fashion picture had ever been taken like that before.

"It was a great slap of excitement, it was tremendous," she said.

"When I showed the collections, I knew I wanted the girls to move like Bailey photographs - to jump, to be alive."

Donovan brought a gritty, East End feel to Man About Town magazine, owned by Michael Heseltine, influencing its image with film-style shots.

His pictures of "spy" scenes, which pre-dated the James Bond films, resulted in model Peter Anthony being asked to screen test for the role of 007.

David Hillman, art director of the Sunday Times magazine, 1962-68, praised the magazine's bold stance.

Model and actress Twiggy was a 60s icon
"Suddenly here was this magazine that was allowing its photographers like Donovan to go off to an iron works somewhere, and actually photographing guys wearing immaculate suits halfway up a gasometer or something," he said.

"That was considered really bizarre - but as a man, you didn't mind being seen sitting on a tube and reading that because it was kind of tough and ballsy."

Meanwhile, Bailey, was busy helping transform Vogue.

Felicity Green, fashion editor of the Sunday Pictorial, 1958-63, observed: "Bailey photographed real people in real situations.

Lewis Morley
Morley famously photographed Christine Keeler
"It wasn't girls in pearls, it was ordinary girls who happened to be exquisitely beautiful."

Bailey's brief, to revitalise the Young Idea section at Vogue, was achieved with fashion model Jean Shrimpton.

Shrimpton reflected: "I think our success was mainly down to timing.

"Everyone had been very elegant and I was a mongrel by comparison and he was as well - he portrayed me as a natural, rather scruffy girl.

"So I think we made it more human and accessible."

I think we made it more human and accessible

Jean Shrimpton
Most photographers had favourite models and close working relationships helped to push back the boundaries.

While Bailey and Shrimpton worked together, photographer John Cowan established his own adventurous style with model Jill Kennington, even taking a series of photographs of her parachuting.

And photographer Lewis Morley became famous for his provocative shot of prostitute Christine Keeler, who sparked the resignation of former British war minister John Profumo.

"I used the old ploy of using a chair back to front", he said.


"I suddenly saw her sitting in the position that was very similar to the other position, but just had something different, so I snapped it."

The photograph now hangs in the Victoria and Albert museum.

By 1964 the young photographers were already firmly established not only as chroniclers of the decade, but also its image-makers.

The Real Blow-Up will be broadcast at 2000BST on BBC Two on Saturday, 10 August 2002.

Meriel McCooey, Daily Express, 1958-61
"Bailey took a picture epitomising Clerkenwell, London, in the 1960s"
David Puttnam, photographer's agent 1966-69
"Donovan made men's fashion quite sexy"
See also:

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