Senior Special Advisor on Photographs
As Senior Special Advisor on Photographs I am currently working part-time as Co-Curator on a photographic exhibition on the life of Audrey Hepburn to open in the Summer 2015 as well as advising on other photographic matters.
Previously I worked as Curator of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery from 1978 until 1st January 2014. I have been responsible, with the help of the photographs department, in making aspects of the collection better known through cataloguing and originating exhibitions and displays. A particular interest was in rediscovering the work of British and international photographers whose works have been concerned with portraiture, particularly with British subjects. Although there is currently no specific photography space in the Gallery, there are changing areas in the Gallery that become available periodically in which to show the important part photographic portraiture has contributed to British history, life and culture.
Information on many of the exhibitions and displays on which I and colleagues worked can be found on the Section of the website Past displays and exhibitions (since 1968), as well as an archive of a special feature, Photograph of the Month, that combines showing a previously unseen or newly acquired work with a topical event or anniversary.
My first degree was in Law, which I studied at Queen Mary College, University of London, followed by two years qualifying as a Barrister (Middle Temple). I subsequently took a post-graduate course in librarianship at Ealing Technical College, and worked for one year at an historical commercial picture library, the Mansell Collection, before joining the National Portrait Gallery as Librarian in October 1975. Three years later I curated and published my first National Portrait Gallery catalogue to mark the centenary of E.O.Hoppe in Camera Portraits by E.O.Hoppe, having become Curator of Photographs in the same year.
In 1981 I curated my first major exhibition, Norman Parkinson: 50 Years of Portraits and Fashion, which was shown also in a reduced form in New York at Sotheby’s and at The National Academy of Design. Many years of research on the 8,000 plus negatives and prints by Howard Coster resulted in another centenary exhibition in 1985 including a complete listing of his work in the Gallery’s collection. Twenty for Today in the same year comprised a survey of 20 contemporary photographers whose work had appeared in the new style journals of the 1980s including the Face, Blitz, Ritz Newspaper and I-D.
In 1988 the exhibitions Helmut Newton and Alice Springs Portraits were followed by research for the first monograph on Lewis Morley: Photographer of the Sixties (1989), including a trip to Sydney to meet with him. A major book written with John Kobal on the MGM photographer Clarence Sinclair Bull: The Man Who Shot Garbo became the template for a further series of successful exhibitions based on the same formula including Horst: Portraits (2001), and Beaton: Portraits (2004), as well as more recently Man Ray: Portraits (2013- 2014) which toured to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (where it was nominated for a Lucie Award ) and The Pushkin Gallery in Moscow.
Publications that have required deeper research over less well trod areas have included James Abbe: The Lure of the Limelight (1995), twice republished in larger formats but using my original research, and High Society: Photographs 1897-1914 (1998). The latter contained a series of biographies of leading Edwardian photographers that I had first started to explore in Edwardian Women Photographers.
In 2013 I worked with the University of Dundee and Helen Trompeteler at the NPG on two displays on the work of Michael Peto at the National Portrait Gallery and at the New York Public Library, and with Clare Freestone on Scandal ’63 marking the 50th anniversary of the Keeler-Profumo Affair and most recently Starring Vivien Leigh, also with Vivien Leigh biographer Kendra Bean. Many years of collecting illustrated periodicals has lead to a new ongoing project to publish the results on the National Portrait Gallery website as another major resource highlighting lost portrait photographs and providing a context for which many historic photographs were originally taken in Photographically Illustrated Periodicals.
My most recent publication is Man Ray: Portraits (2013). Since the first edition appeared in English other editions have also appeared in Spanish, French and most recently a Russian edition that included a number of different images shown only at the Moscow venue.
I have also contributed, with several others, to a forthcoming Victoria and Albert Museum publication on Horst P. Horst that will be edited by Susanna Brown who is curating a major retrospective later in 2014.
Various other publications all relate to major exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, including a collaboration with David Friend to produce Vanity Fair: Portraits (2008), working with Jon Savage to create Beatles to Bowie: the 60s Exposed (2009), as well as expanding my earlier biographical research on Hoppe to contribute to Hoppe: Portraits by Phillip Prodger.