Norman Parkinson, CBE (21 April 1913 – 15 February 1990) was one of the most celebrated fashion photographers of the 20th Century.
His work revolutionised British fashion photography, as he moved his models from the studio and to outdoor settings. Parkinson pioneered epic storytelling in his images, taking portrait and fashion photography beyond the formality of his predecessors. His models were often outside, frequently engaged in physical activity, playing golf or riding in speedboats, creating a dynamic elegance, unique to his art.
Parkinson worked for Harper’s Bazaar and Bystander magazines from 1935-40, during which his fame grew rapidly; he then began a long collaboration with Vogue from 1941 onward.
His photographs heralded the age of the supermodel and made him the photographer of choice for celebrities, artists, Presidents and Prime Ministers. He was a ever present at historic events photographing the British Royal Family, both in private and public, as well as leading figures from the worlds of film, theatre, and music. His subjects include Audrey Hepburn, The Beatles, Twiggy, Grace Coddington, David Bowie, Iman, and countless others. In a career that spanned seven decades, Parkinson dazzled the world and inspired his peers with sparkling inventiveness as a portrait and fashion photographer.
“I like to make people look as good as they’d like to look, and with luck, a shade better” — Norman Parkinson
Parkinson worked for many of the top publications, notably Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and international magazines, which brought him worldwide recognition. He reinvented himself and fashion photography throughout his career, from his ground-breaking, spontaneous images of the 1930s, through the war years and the Swinging Sixties to the exotic locations of the 1970s and 1980s. By the end of his life, he had become a household name; the recipient of a CBE, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, and was the subject of a large-scale retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, London. His work has been exhibited and collected world wide.
From 1960 to 1963, Parkinson worked as an Associate Contributing Editor of Queen Magazine. In 1963, he went to live in Tobago, and began to set many of his shoots abroad. While frequently returning to London, Parkinson worked as a freelance photographer from 1964 until his death in 1990.