Twenty Years On National Portrait Gallery, London October 11th 1996 - February 7th, 1997

Coinciding with the publication of Twenty Years On by Pavilion—a major retrospective of Swannell’s work reflecting his unique individual style—the National Portrait Gallery is displaying 28 of the photographs included in the book. His characteristic strong, clean lines are shown in portraits of Robert Mapplethorpe, John Gielgud, the Princess of Wales and her children, Sir Roy Strong, and Helena Bonham-Carter.


Marianne Swannell and Family x87609
Pete Townshend P717 (15)
Princess Diana and Family P717 (16)
Paul Smith x87608
Bob Geldof P717 (7)
Horst P. Horst x87597
Ruth Bernhard x87591
Helena Bonham-Carter P717 (2)
Peter Langan x87601
Richard Branson P717 (4)
Auberon Waugh x87613
Oliviero and Kirsty Toscani x87610
Roy Strong P717 (14)
James and Julia Ogilvy x38273
Bryan Ferry x87595
Robert Mapplethorpe x87604
Andy Warhol x87612
Andrew Lloyd-Webber P717 (10)
Sir John Gielgud P717 (8)
Jacques-Henri Lartigue x87602
Elton John P717 (9)
Peter Blake x87592
David Bailey P717 (1)
Joan Collins P717 (5)
Delia Smith x87592
Helmut Newton and Marie Helvin x87605
Viscount and Serena Linley x87603
Jasper Conran x32147
Billy Connolly x87594
Bruce Oldfield x27936
John Hurt x87598
Greta Scaachi x34022


Helena Bonham Carter:‘We did a cover for Tatler with Alaïa clothes. I couldn’t walk and I thought:  “These aren’t me at all.” But the pictures were great because John gives you the freedom and confidence to be yourself. He is an incredible gentle man, very amusing and self-effacing.’

    Sir Bob Geldof: ‘I still look shite in John’s pictures. In the one in the book, I think I’m thinking: “How long is this going to take?” but he makes me look moody and deep in thought – not so idiotic as normal. John’s skill is that the audience can recognise the “idea” they have of that person.’

    Bruce Oldfield: ‘My mug shot is next to Diana, Princess of Wales in the National Portrait Gallery. John had a definite idea of how he wanted me to look and talked through the minutiae – down to how he was going to arrange my tie. I like the result but I remember a lot of people thought I looked slightly sinister.’

    James Ogilvy: ‘We’ve known John as a friend for a while and I think he is the best portrait photographer in the country. John took numerous pictures of our daughter when she was nine months old. He exhibited remarkable patience and managed to keep her occupied for two hours. He often has very interesting ideas: on our fifth wedding anniversary, he suggested my wife and I might have our portrait taken from the side as he thought we had very similar profiles, and we’ve often been mistaken for brother and sister.’

    Sir Roy Strong: ‘John belongs to the Gainsborough tradition. He has a sense of high glamour. Everything is classical, controlled and clean. To work with a photographer who always looks elegant and dapper like John makes a difference. He doesn’t let you feel a bit nervous but there’s always a kind of half-friendly, half-evil glint in his eye that says “I can make or break you.”’

    Delia Smith: ‘John Swannell is an absolutely marvellous photographer. He has done two pictures of me. The one I like best was of me having cranberries poured all over my head.’

    Bryan Ferry: ‘John is at the same time both craftsman and innovator – not afraid to experiment, but always aware that quality of image is what counts. He’s a master of light and shade.’”

—Tatler, November 1996 pp. 32-34

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