Duffy: One of Britain's most influential photographers gets a career retrospective

By Nick Owen | 11 July 2011
Duffy's iconic cover photograph for David Bowie's 1973 album Aladdin Sane
© Duffy Archive

Exhibition: Duffy – A Visual Record of a Photographic Genius, Idea Generation Gallery, London, until August 28 2011

The first ever full-career retrospective of the legendary British photographer Brian Duffy has opened at London’s Idea Generation Gallery.

After years of painstaking work by his son, a collection of more than 160 images have been collected after Duffy infamously quit photography in 1979, marking the event by burning his work in his back garden.

Literally rising from the ashes, the show features some of the finest British iconography from the man who helped capture and create ‘Swinging 60s’ London.

Together with David Bailey and Terence Donovan, Duffy is recognised as one of the innovators of ‘documentary’ fashion photography.

So influential were the triumvirate that in 1962 the Sunday Times dubbed them the ‘Terrible Trio’, with fellow photographer Norman Parkinson enshrining their notoriety by dubbing them ‘The Black Trinity’.

Arranged in three strands – Fashion, Faces and Money – the exhibition covers Duffy’s early fashion work for likes of French Elle, to his dynamic portraiture and later advertisement commissions.
Jane Birkin, 1965
© Duffy Archive
With an ever-changing cast of rock stars, actors, models, writers, and politicians of the day, Duffy heralded a new era where the photographer was the star.

Among the contact sheets and test shots can be seen the likes of Hollywood legends Michael Caine and Brigitte Bardot, unseen shots of rock stars John Lennon and Debbie Harry, and writers such as William Burroughs.

His avant garde style is evident in the award winning commercial photography he delivered.

Duffy became one of the few photographers to shoot two Pirelli calanders in both 1965 and 1973, as well as shooting three record sleeves for David Bowie, including the now iconic Aladdin Sane.

Benson & Hedges 'Birdcage' advert, 1977
© Duffy Archive
The exhibition also brings together some of Duffy’s most recognisable commercial work, including leading surreal campaigns for Benson & Hedges and Smirnoff Vodka.

Speaking of the significance of his father’s work, Chris Duffy said: “Known for his avant garde eye, Duffy’s work transcends the time in which it was taken and continues to influence the visual styles of today.”

  • Open 10am-6pm (12pm-5pm Saturday and Sunday). Admission free. Visit the show online.
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