Brian Duffy, together with David Bailey and Terence Donovan was one of the innovators of “documentary” fashion photography, a style which revolutionised fashion imagery and the fashion industry of the late 50’s and 60’s.
These three photographers were so influential to the changes taking place in the 60’s that they were christened “The Terrible Three“ by Cecil Beaton and “The Black Trinity” by Norman Parkinson. Duffy’s cutting edge photography documents the vibrancy of “the Swinging 60’s” London scene when the city was at the height of cool, and places him in the photographic history books as one of the UK’s most respected photographers.
Much has been written about the impact that these three dynamos had on Vogue Magazine, photography, and London’s scene, most famously perhaps that of David Bailey. However, being a little older and more analytical/intellectual in his approach, it was Duffy in fact who led the way, and the three were as well known as the models, actors and musicians that they photographed.
These three working-class photographers tore up an effete industry with little regard for the pretensions of the old guard. Duffy himself said at the time that “Before 1960 a fashion photographer was tall, thin and camp. But we three are different: short, fat and heterosexual.”
Duffy made work for magazines such as Vogue, French Elle, The Times, The Telegraph, Queen, Town, London Life, as well as advertising clients Pirelli, Biba, Smirnoff, Benson and Hedges, and had a long standing relationship with the top media titles, leading the way in both advertising and editorial imagery.
Duffy retired in the 1980’s after having set fire to his negatives, an act so final in its nature, that there seemed to be no going back. However, thanks to his son Chris, this collection exists, Chris has worked since August 2007 to collate his archive and restore Duffy’s rightful place at the centre of British photographic history.
Sadly, Brian Duffy died on 31st May 2010. Duffy’s friend David Puttman describes “Duffy was far more than a gifted photographer: he was a uniquely constructive “social anarchist”, who through sheer force of personality , helped push the stultifying conservatism of the 1950’s into permanent retreat. They may not know it but every participant in what today would be referred to as the “creative industries” will be forever in his debt… he questioned the validity of everything from the position of someone courageous enough to challenge just about every received convention he ran up against”
In 2013 Duffy was voted as one of the topmost 100 influential photographers of all time and he richly deserves that title. When Duffy felt he had pushed the boundaries as far as he could and was no longer satisfied with stills photography he abruptly shut his studio, attempted to burn all of his negatives and moved into commercials. Despite repeated requests to return to still photography, give interviews or discuss his career, he became reclusive and his remaining negatives would have stayed in boxes under the stairs had it not been for the persistence of his eldest son, Chris.
Since 2010 Duffy’s work has been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries around the world. In 2012 the Victoria and Albert Museum requested the use of the original Aladdin Sane record cover ‘dye transfer’ print for their BritishDesign 1948-2012 cultural exhibition. In 2013 the V&A approached the archive for use of the newly released ‘Eyes Open’ version as the lead image forthe ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition. This exhibition has achieved record-breaking numbers in several venues and has been seen by over 1.5 million visitors. Duffy’s name has now become recognised by an international audience and is now firmly back on the map.