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Snowdon

dudler

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Snowdon

10 Apr 2020 12:06PM   Views : 207 Unique : 136

This photographic alphabet hasnít included many photographers, so itís probably time for another one: one of the elite who are known by a single name: Snowdon.

You may have seen a dashing and possibly disreputable character in The Crown, but the glossy, public side of life was far from the totality of Antony Armstrong-Jones. As a photographer, he was massively talented and covered a wide range of subjects, from the 80th birthday portrait of the queen to documentary pictures of lunchtime strippers in Canning Town, and the definitive portrait of art historian and spy Anthony Blunt.

According to the introduction to the catalogue of his show at the Chris Beetles Gallery in 2006, he felt that his rŰle as a photographer was to become an invisible observer. Certainly, a talent for invisibility was apparent on the opening night of the show: while most of the people present were there to be seen, and possibly be seen to be buying, he sat quietly in a corner, almost unnoticed. Intriguingly, for a photographic event, there were few people carrying cameras Ė I got a singularly dirty look from the unnervingly-attractive wife of an infamous author and politicianÖ

Why was I there? My sister wrangled an invitation, and it was unmissable. I could look at the pictures at any time, but the chance to meet and thank one of my photographic heroes was a distinct one-off.

Above all, go and look at his pictures. Donít take any preconceptions about the man: simply observe the talent. To quote Giles Huxley-Parlourís introduction to the catalogue ĎHe has an uncanny ability to strip pretensions, and by removing whatever pride his sitters arrive with, reveal the truth.í Leafing through the catalogue again, the accuracy of this statement shines through: a 1967 shot of Peter Sellers and Britt Ekland has Sellersí glasses reflecting heavily, veiling the view of his eyes. A rehearsal picture of Fonteyn and Nureyev shows them as sublime, airy and seductive creatures: Lord Archer is visibly under his wifeís control in a double portrait, in what appears to be a side head lock.

Although itís likely the Gallery is completely out of stock of the catalogues, there are a couple on eBay. At £10, the original price, the catalogue is nicely printed, and has 70 pictures: for half this, itís a steal, as are all the Beetles catalogues. And, when lockdown lifts, a visit to the now-separate Beetles-Huxley Gallery in Swallow Street is likely to be a worthwhile addition to any visit to the West End of London.

Comments


Howard2 4 3 3 United Kingdom
10 Apr 2020 12:50PM
I have had for years a paperback copy of Snowden Sittings 1979-1983, plus printed interview with him when he was 72, and articles about him. As you have said above, a great photographer. Also a man who often seems not to have received a fair deal by public opinion.

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dudler Plus
16 1.1k 1645 England
10 Apr 2020 2:52PM
That's rather how I read it, Howard. Which seemed like a good reason to post soemthing about him. I have a feeling I've got a copy of Sittings, somewhere...

It's really easy to forget that some photographers were good outside the fields they're known for: the other photographic Lord, Patrick Lichfield, was also pretty wide-ranging and highly competent, but he's generally known for the Unipart calendars, because of the rather fine TV documentaries that followed a couple of the shoots.

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