This month’s featured artist is photographer Brian Duffy.
Studying dress design at Saint Martins College of Art, Duffy pursued brief stints in fashion design and illustration before turning his hand to photography in the late 1950s. Cutting his teeth as fourth assistant to Adrian Flowers, Duffy picked up his first commission from the Sunday Times in 1957, the year that he started at Vogue. Quickly becoming a Vogue favorite, Duffy’s avant-garde style was instrumental in pushing the formerly society-led magazine to remain relevant as the teenage revolution ensued.
Duffy ushered in a new style of documentary fashion photography alongside his ‘Black Trinity’ contemporaries David Bailey and Terence Donovan. Together they pushed aside the stuffy conservatism of the fifties in favor of a more innovative and energetic approach that perfectly fitted post-war ‘swinging London’.
By 1961 Duffy started working for French Elle, where he believes he did his best work. Inspired by a culture that encouraged experimentation and subversion, Duffy remained working with Elle for nearly 20 years, alongside many other publications around the world.
Duffy had an eight year working relationship with the artist David Bowie. He shot five key sessions over this period providing the creative concept as well as the photographic image for three album covers, including the 1973 Aladdin Sane (often nicknamed ‘the Mona Lisa of pop’). Duffy interpreted Bowie’s original title of ‘A Lad Insane’ as ‘Aladdin Sane’. He also worked on the 1979 Lodger and 1980 Scary Monsters & Super Creeps. Duffy’s input had a significant influence on the creation of Bowie’s chameleon like public image and in 2014 Chris Duffy and Kevin Cann co-authored a book chronicling these shoots titled Duffy Bowie: Five Sessions. Brian Duffy pasted on May 31, 2010.
Here’s more for the book Duffy Bowie: Five Sessions:
Kevin Cann, co-author of Duffy Bowie, on Aladdin Sane
“Aladdin Sane was the first of David
On reflection, this is what makes the cover so compelling, I think- the timing. It was by no means a safe design to undertake, particularly for an artist who was still breaking. Few, if any, performers at that time would have considered taking a chance by offering up such a challenging cover image- at such an important moment in their careers. And the timeless cover, was it meant to portray a death mask, a corpse, an alien- or a gaudy statue. What exactly did it mean?
For many parents it was a shocking image and definitely a step too far- particularly as it was their impressionable teenage children bringing the record home. This, coupled with the [rumors] of Bowie’s outrageous sexuality at a time when gay and bi-sexual culture were still being censured in both media and everyday society, it all helped to pique many classic parent/teacher arguments. And so with Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, a new teenage rebellion quietly got underway- and the Bowie fans who were heterosexual remained heterosexual- though most became more enlightened- and many who were gay were given the confidence to properly express themselves for the first time. Who knows what ’80s pop culture would have been like if David Bowie hadn’t be so brave?
In 1973, Aladdin Sane was the perfect marriage of fantastic music, wonderful art, and also theatre. The cover felt like it could have been created by Salvador Dali, or Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein or Peter Blake- it was apparent that the man on this sleeve certainly know all about these people-and a great deal more-that there was a considerable history behind the image.”
Natasha Kornilof, Costume Designer for Scary Monsters
“David [Bowie] called me and asked me to make him a costume. He wanted to be ‘the most beautiful clown in the circus’- and I’m sure he was thinking back to the days with Lindsay Kemp when I first made costumes for him.”
Pick up your copy of Duffy Bowie: Five Sessions by Chris Duffy and Kevin Cann at Mr Musichead Gallery.