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Private Eye: Photographs By Lewis Morley

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Start Date:31st October 2011
End Date:16th April 2012
Private Eye: Photographs By Lewis Morley

A new display at the National Portrait Gallery marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first issue of Private Eye, the highly successful satirical magazine. Portraits on show by Lewis Morley, the semi-official photographer of the satire boom, document those involved in the formation and early years of the magazine.

The eleven photographs on show include portraits of two of Private Eye’s founders, Richard Ingrams and Willie Rushton. Also included are the magazine’s proprietor since 1962, comedian Peter Cook, journalist and writer Auberon Waugh, cartoonist Timothy Birdsall, entertainer and writer Barry Humphries and Spotty Muldoon, a fictional character created by Peter Cook.

Founded by Christopher Booker, Ingrams and Rushton, the first issue of Private Eye appeared on 25 October 1961. The trio had begun their friendship at Shrewsbury School and continued to stay in touch through their Oxbridge years where they contributed to Private Eye’s predecessor Mesopotamia. Booker was the inaugural editor but was replaced by Ingrams in 1962, the year that comedian Peter Cook became proprietor of the magazine. The early issues of the magazine were compiled at 22 Greek Street, Soho, two doors up from Cook’s nightclub The Establishment. Ingrams’ unapologetic editorial style shaped the content until he handed the post over to Ian Hislop 24 years later. With regular contributions from John Wells, Paul Foot, Claud Cockburn and Auberon Waugh, Private Eye quickly became an influential source of investigative journalism as well as anti-establishment satire.

Born in Hong Kong in 1925 to English and Chinese parents, Lewis Morley studied at Twickenham College of Art. After spending some time as a painter in Paris in the 1950s he moved to London and took up photography in 1954, initially working on magazine assignments for Tatler, Go! and She. Much of his work throughout the sixties was devoted to theatre photography, and he was introduced into the satirical scene of the early 1960s as his studio was above Peter Cook’s Establishment Club. This introduction led to Morley photographing the cast of the British comedy stage revue Beyond the Fringe and contributing photographs to Private Eye. Morley is now best-known for his photograph of Christine Keeler, taken as the Profumo scandal was unfolding in 1963. He chronicled the new idols of 1960s society in London and captured the spirit of the era, before emigrating to Australia in 1971. The first major retrospective of Morley’s work was held at the National Portrait Gallery in 1989 and the Gallery holds almost three hundred prints given by the photographer.

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Images from Private Eye: Photographs By Lewis Morley

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