Brian Duffy (photographer)

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This article is about the English photographer. For other uses, see Brian Duffy (disambiguation).
Brian Duffy
Brian Duffy photographer.jpg
Self-portrait of Duffy, 1968
Born (1933-06-15)15 June 1933
United Kingdom
Died 31 May 2010(2010-05-31) (aged 76)
United Kingdom
Occupation Photographer, film producer
Children Christopher, Charlotte, Samantha & Carey

Brian Duffy (15 June 1933 – 31 May 2010) was an English photographer and film producer,[1] best remembered for his fashion and portrait photography of the 1960s and 1970s.

Early life[edit]

Brian Duffy was born to Irish parents in London in 1933. During World War II he was evacuated with his two brothers and sister to Kings Langley where he was taken in by the actors Roger Livesey and Ursula Jeans. After a few weeks, his mother, unhappy about her four children being split up from the family insisted they all return to London. When the bombing in London became intense they were evacuated for a second time to Wales but returned to London having lived on a remote farm for a month.

Once back in London Duffy, ‘had the most wonderful war’, breaking into abandoned houses and running wild. Only when it was over did he start school, first attending a liberal school in Chelsea where the London County Council had adopted a policy that treated difficult children with a programme of cultural experiences to broaden their horizons.[2] Duffy was involved in several bouts of trouble and was moved onto another school for difficult boys in Kentish Town where once again emphasis was placed on treating troubled youths through cultural inclusion which involved school trips to the Opera, ballet, art galleries and cultural institutions. It was here that Duffy unveiled his own creative tendencies and upon finishing school he applied to Saint Martin's School of Art. In 1950 he started art school with the intention to be a painter but soon realised that his peers were more talented and moved onto a dress design course ‘where all the pretty girls were’.[3] He finished St. Martin’s in 1953 and immediately began working as an assistant designer at Susan Small, after which he worked for Victor Steibel, the preferred designer to Princess Margaret. Following this, on a visit to Paris, he was offered a job at Balenciaga but was unable to take it up as his wife June was pregnant with their eldest son Chris

Professional career[edit]

In 1955 Duffy began freelancing as a fashion artist for Harper's Bazaar where he first came into contact with commercial photography. Inspired by the photographic contact sheets he saw passing through the art director's desk he sought a job as a photographers assistant. Unsuccessfully, he applied for a job with John French and was subsequently employed at Carlton studios and then at Cosmopolitan Artists. Duffy went on to work as an assistant to the photographer Adrian Flowers and whilst working for Flowers he received his first photographic commission from Ernestine Carter, who was the fashion editor of The Sunday Times.

In 1957 Duffy was hired by British Vogue working under art director John Parsons where he remained working until 1963. During this time he worked closely with top models Jean Shrimpton (who he introduced to David Bailey), Paulene Stone, Joy Weston, Jennifer Hocking and Judy Dent.

With fellow photographers; David Bailey and Terence Donovan, Duffy was a key player in the ‘Swinging Sixties’ - a culture of high fashion and celebrity chic. Together the 'Black Trinity' as affectionately named by Norman Parkinson (and only ever referred to by their surnames), redefined not only the aesthetic of fashion photography but also the place of the photographer within the industry. Socialising with actors, pop stars, royalty and the notorious Kray Twins, they represented a new breed of photographer and found themselves elevated to celebrity status. Duffy commented on the culture shock the three were to the industry:

″Before 1960, a fashion photographer was tall, thin and camp. But we three are different: short, fat and heterosexual!″[edit]

Apart from Vogue, Duffy also worked for numerous publications including Glamour Magazine, Esquire, Town Magazine, Queen Magazine, The Observer, The Sunday Times and the Telegraph Magazine. He worked for Swiss Art Director Peter Knapp and later Foulia Elia for French Elle for two periods the first between 1963 and 1968, and then again between 1974 and 1979. Duffy claimed that he did some of his best work working with French Elle. Duffy was also a highly successful commercial advertising photographer shooting award winning campaigns for both Benson & Hedges and Smirnoff in the 1970s as well as designing the concept for Silk Cut which he sold onto Paul Arden at Saatchi & Saatchi

In 1965 Duffy was asked to shoot the second Pirelli calendar which was shot on location in the south of France. He was commissioned to shoot the calendar again in 1973 (one of very few photographers commissioned to shoot two) which he created in collaboration with British pop artist Allen Jones and air brush specialist Philip Castle. In 1968 he set up a film production company with Len Deighton called Deighton Duffy and went on to produce the film adaptations of Deighton's book Only When I Larf (1967),[4] and of the musical Oh! What a Lovely War, which was released in 1969. Continuing Duffy’s lifelong interest in the First World War in 1985 he directed ‘Lions Led By Donkeys’ for Channel 4 TV.

Duffy had an eight-year working relationship with the artist David Bowie and shot five key sessions over this period providing the creative concept as well as the photographic image for three album covers,[5] including the 1973 Aladdin Sane (often nicknamed ‘the Mona Lisa of pop’) when Duffy interpreted Bowie's original title of 'A Lad Insane' as 'Aladdin Sane', 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’

In 1979 Duffy abruptly gave up photography attempting to burn many of his negatives in his studio yard but fortunately neighbours objected to the acrid smoke, the council were called and much of his work was saved. Although a large number of his images were lost the ones that remain stand collectively as a comprehensive visual history of twenty-five years of British culture and fashion. Duffy moved onto television commercials and in 1981 joined the film production company Lewin Matthews and in 1983 Duffy directed the music video for Spandau Ballet's ‘Gold’, ABC’s ‘All Of My Love’ and two pop videos for The Human League. Between 1984 and 1986 Duffy worked for Paul Kramer Productions in New York. Upon his return he set up his own film production company 3DZ with his two sons Chris and Carey and pioneered the Super16 film format shooting TV commercials and pop videos including the British Steel flotation in 1988. By 1990 Duffy retired from all image making and followed his lifelong passion for furniture restoration and became an accredited BAFRA (British Antique Furniture Restoration Association) restorer.

The story of his life and work is documented in a BBC documentary shown in January 2010 titled The Man Who Shot the 60's [6][edit]

Duffy died on 31 May 2010, after suffering from the degenerative lung disease pulmonary fibrosis.

In 2008 Duffy's son Chris started The Duffy Archive [7] and in October 2009 Duffy's work was exhibited for the first time at the Chris Beetles Gallery in London (now known as Beetles & Huxley). Interest has grown year on year in Duffy's work and in 2012 Duffy had twelve international exhibitions including three solo museum shows at the Alanari Photo Museum in Florence, Monash Art Gallery in Sydney Australia and the Centro De Historias Museum in Zaragoza Spain. Duffy’s work was also exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery (Beetles to Bowie exhibit), The Tate Liverpool (Glam exhibit) and the V&A (British Design 1947-2012).

In June 2011 Duffy's son Chris, authored a monograph of Duffy's images which was published by ACC Editions titled ‘Duffy - Photographer’ and featured over 160 iconic images from the 1950s, 60s and 70s and in 2011 the V&A Museum London requested Duffy prints for their permanent collection.

In 2013 the Duffy Archive was approached by the V&A to supply an image for the ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition and a previously unpublished David Bowie ‘Eyes Open’ image from the Aladdin Sane contact sheet was chosen as their key promotional image. This exhibition and image has been shown worldwide and is almost as famous as the original Aladdin Sane album cover. The exhibition is currently on a worldwide tour.

Duffy was included in the 2013 Professional Photographer list of the 100 most influential photographers of all time.

In 2014 the National Portrait Gallery hosted Bailey's 'Stardust' exhibition and featured Duffy under two categories ‘artists’ and ‘icons’. Duffy was Bailey’s friend and sparring partner and Bailey was famously quoted as saying ‘Aggravation and Duffy go together like gin and tonic’.

At the end of 2014 in conjunction with French Elle Chris Duffy co-authored a book with Emma Baxter-Wright on Duffy’s work with French Elle (currently only available in French) Mode sixties and seventies: Dans l'oeil de Brian Duffy.


Duffy married June when he was twenty one years old. The couple had four children, Christopher, Charlotte, Samantha and Carey.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Only When I Larf". Variety. 1967-12-31. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  2. ^ "The Sunday Times". magazine (Duffy and the Lost Girls): 23/24. Aug 17, 2003. 
  3. ^ Duffy - Photographer (first ed.). ACC. 2011. p. 13. ISBN 9781851496570. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Duffy Bowie (first ed.). ACC. March 2014. pp. 8/9. ISBN 9781851497652. 
  6. ^
  7. ^

Further reading[edit]


By Chris Duffy ACC Editions published ISBN 978-1851496570 Publisher: ACC Editions Size: 9.5 in x 12 in Pages: 208 Illustrations: 48 colour, 160 b&w [1]

Duffy / Bowie - Five Sessions[edit]

by Chris Duffy & Kevin Cann - Kevin Cann, Chris Duffy ISBN 9781851497652 Publisher: ACC Editions Size: 7.5 in x 9 in Pages: 212 Illustrations: 80 color, 90 b&w Hardcover [2]

Fashion 60's & 70's - In The Eyes of Brian Duffy[edit]

By Chris Duffy & Emma Baxter-Wright - Elle - French Edition - Published by Glenat [3]

External links[edit]

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