Career Focused on Star Charisma; LAURA DAVIS Looks Back at the Work of One of the World's Most Celebrated Photographers

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), September 5, 2015 | Go to article overview

Career Focused on Star Charisma; LAURA DAVIS Looks Back at the Work of One of the World's Most Celebrated Photographers


IT'S often hard to imagine the past was lived in colour - that stars of the 20s and 30s had flesh-toned skin and wore clothes that weren't every shade of grey.

Jonathan Cape's new collection of Cecil Beaton photographs cements this notion. The subjects of Beaton's pictures embody a parallel world of black and white, in images that are equally so utterly of their own time and astoundingly modern.

Spanning his entire career - from pictures of his sisters on the beach in the 1920s to his last work in the 70s - the book is mostly drawn from the 100,000 prints and negatives that form his archive at Sotheby's.

What an incredible experience it must have been to be immersed in such an immense collection of images by one of the world's most celebrated photographers, and to discover pictures that so vividly define each era in which he worked.

The photographs of his sisters, published in magazines under various assumed names, Hampstead-born Beaton followed up with portraits of fellow students and the wives of dons at St John's College, Cambridge.

|He left university without a degree, but had already sold his work to Vogue and by the end of the 1920s would be working in America - first in New York for Conde Nast and then in Hollywood for Vanity Fair.

By his death in 1980, he had long been celebrated for his own sense of style, as well as for capturing the elegance of those fortunate enough to pose before his lens.

His subjects included royalty - beginning with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's wedding in 1937; artists and writers such as Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso and Truman Capote; film stars including Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly and the Marx Brothers; rock stars such as The Rolling Stones; members of the armed forces and his own family.

Some - like a 1941 portrait of Vivien Leigh dressed as a Renaissance beauty flanked by stone columns - are carefully staged, while others - like a 1959 picture of an impossibly young, freckled Julie Andrews resting her head on a mirror - feel caught almost by chance. …

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