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"Duffy" Exhibition Preview

Stuart Fawcett went along to the preview of "Duffy" - a visual record of the photographic genius.

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Words by Stuart Fawcett (JackAllTog).

Have you ever deleted an image by mistake or lost a negative, then did you find that lost treasured photo? Well a very famous collection of images which after mostly being lost in a back garden bonfire started on purpose by the iconic photographer Duffy has been reassembled by family and friends into an excellently displayed collection well worthy of your viewing time. 

You can see the Brian Duffy archive collection for free in London's Idea Generation Gallery which is situated behind "Les Trois Garcons" opposite Shoreditch High Street station on Chance Street. This seems quite coincidental when you consider we have a second chance to see work from one of the trinity of famous sixties fashion photographers, the other two being David Bailey and Terence Donovan making up the "terrible trio" or the "black trinity" depending on who you ask.

This large bright gallery is a wonderful place to view the photos. The clear black and white masterpieces are very well displayed and described throughout multiple rooms and floors.

Duffy collection

One excellent aspect of this collection is that you get the time and environment to enjoy and appreciate the photographs on display, more are available in the book if you like it, it's certainly one I’d like on my coffee table one day. There is a great colour image of Bruce Forsyth in what looks like his home in the 60's, even back then he looks like your over slick uncle or Quagmire from Family Guy. The photos themselves are excellent and really question the need for the complexity of some more modern lighting arrangements. Some of my favourite portraits were Arne Jacobsen and Harold Wilson and a beautifully almost over exposed face of Jean Shrimpton - amazing lighting detail.

Jean Shrimpton
 Jean Shrimpton - 1963 © Duffy Archive.
Of course Duffy headlines with the enigmatic Michael Caine and these photos and the contact sheets are total gems in their own right. For me one that particularly stands out is a David Bowie B&W inverse image with his eyes closed, excellent for an inverse colour portrait as the closed eyes allow self contemplation and the chance to look within the detail.

The Fashion section has an amazing image of a girl in a high collar coat and hat leaning on a waste bin for the French Elle magazine, fashion and shape combine beautifully and the model almost disappears. Also under the fashion umbrella is a trip to Italy where unusually the background also has detail and interest but is still generally neat and ordered; Look out for the Girl and the Car in Florence, Italy, 1962.

More famous people include images of Sidney Poitier, Nina Simone and Joanna Lumley all in relaxed, clean, high-key photos some with their own children.

Brian's commercial work includes some wonderful almost abstract images, one forever memorable image will be the "Benson & Hedges – Easel, 1978" you have got see that if you can for it’s a brilliant use of subtle colour.

In another room there is a hidden treasure trove of artefacts from Brain's life and work, including a very neat job book of engagements, on the wall behind is a bonus, a collection of representative art from Steven Write, Syd Barrat, Tracy Emin and even Lady Gaga.

This archive is lovingly put together by his family and friends and has a personal feel that really adds to the enjoyment of the event, After meeting his son Chris and another archive friend you can appreciate a real desire to share the work as well as present its value in photographic history.

With so much to see it’s impossible to choose a favourite, but a quirky one that stood out for me was David Bowie, Lodger, 1979. Now it's your turn. Will you choose the simplistic beauty of Jane Birkin, 1965 or the excellent Reggie Kray and grandfather, 1964; Or maybe the Queen magazine, 1965 that made me think of the Kennedy assignation. Then there is your personal moment of self indulgence with Vogue and a Jaguar E-Type on a newly opened M1 in 1960. It will make you feel twice as good as you do now. This is a clear winner on the top places to visit in London list for July or August. Whether it's to muse on why Brian burnt much of his work, or just to enjoy the great photos and remember the good times, it's well worth making the time to visit.

Words and images by Stuart Fawcett (JackAllTog).

The exhibition runs from 08 July – 28 August 2011 at the Idea Generation Gallery in London. Take a look at ePHOTOzine's exhibition section for more information.

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