Brian Duffy’s extraordinary span of work from the 1960s–1970s, which helped to redefine glossy magazine photography, is now on show at the Monash Gallery of Art.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Brian Duffy (along with colleagues David Bailey and Terence Donovan) brought models out of the studio and into the streets, snapping them in everyday locations like shops, restaurants and parks and breaking the formal photographic conventions that had characterised the 1950s. The trio had defined just what it meant to be cool, chic and rich in ‘Swinging London’.
London had shed its smoggy air and wartime austerity, and set out to become a youthful, rebellious city. At the time, London was the world’s most fashionable city — pop supergroups like The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones were topping charts around the world, models were more highly paid than ever and many residents had newfound disposable incomes.
Duffy’s fashion photography was published by Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, the Times, Vogue and Elle. While at Vogue he photographed Jean Shrimpton, the world’s first supermodel (not to mention the highest paid model at the time) and one of several icons of Swinging London. However, photographers like Duffy also became household names — celebrities in their own right who were known for their distinct photography style.
At the height of his career in the 70s, Duffy took many iconic celebrity photographs including the likes of David Bowie, Blondie, John Lennon, Black Sabbath and The Beatles. Perhaps Duffy’s most famous photograph captured the glam rock appeal of Bowie for use as the Aladdin Sane cover art in 1973.
Just five years later, on an unremarkable morning in 1979, Duffy decided to quit photography forever. Duffy assembled his negatives to burn, but was stopped by the council due to excessive smoke — negatives don’t burn well. The Brian Duffy archive was created in 2007, sourced from negatives and contact sheets kept by newspapers and magazines.
The Monash Gallery of Art in Wheelers Hill are exhibiting Notorious: Duffy’s celebrity photography, a selection from the Duffy Archive, until May 13 2012. Admission is free. A talk will also be held on May 5 with Rob Imhoff, discussing Australian photography in the 1970s and Duffy’s international influence.