Brighton Photo Biennial 2010: John Deakin's Gods and Monsters, Pallant House, Chichester

By Ben Miller | 28 September 2010
A black and white photo of a half-naked man holding up two slabs of meat
John Deakin, Francis Bacon (1952)© John Deakin
Brighton Photo Biennial 2010: Gods and Monsters: John Deakin's Portraits of British Artists, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, October 2 2010 – January 10 2011

It only makes sense to pay a visit to Chichester's classy Pallant House if you're within striking distance of the Brighton Photo Biennial, particularly when it's pairing works by major British artists with portraits of them by infamous former Vogue photographer John Deakin.

A gonzo snapper who was hired and fired twice by the same editor, Deakin achieved bad boy status around the pubs and clubs of Soho, counting the likes of Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Michael Andrews among his friends and artistic accomplices.

Those three are among the sitters here, captured as part of a Vogue commission to photograph 12 contemporary artists between 1951 and 1952. The oracular magazine has lent a series of ragged vintage prints, rediscovered in their archives nearly 20 years ago, showing Deakin's style of pushing contrasts to the limit in an ethos leaving no pore unexposed.

"John Deakin is inseparable from the mythology of Soho in the 1950," says curator Robin Muir, discussing the artist Bacon credited with playing a key part in informing his interpretations of the human form.

"Deakin may have behaved the worst – the Woolworth's heiress, Barbara Hutton, called him 'the second nastiest little man I ever met.' But to his peers he was a true original."

See Culture24 next week for our review


Logo for the Brighton Photo Biennial
Culture24 at the Brighton Photo Biennial 2010:
Martin Parr on curating the festival
Artist's Statement: Alejandro Chaskielberg
Inside The House of Vernacular at Fabrica
Artist Molly Landreth on Queer Brighton
Video: Alec Soth on Brighton Picture Hunt
Our preview of the Brighton Photo Fringe
Five to see at the Fringe: Part One
Behind the Scenes: Three Views of Brighton
Laura Burgess on the education programme
"Cutting edge" programme announced for 2010
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