Brian Duffy has been called "the man who
shot the sixties" by fans of the commercial and fashion
photography. He was referred to simply as "Duffy"
in those days, and accumulated many works, for magazines like
Vogue and album covers for artists like David Bowie.
Photographer Brian Duffy
He also worked in advertising photography and
did intimate portraits of celebrities. He quit the business
in 1979, and burned quite a few of his negatives.
Duffy's son Chris was able to uncover some archival
footage, and he convinced his father to return to his love of
photography just a short while before Duffy died, in 2010. Duffy
had worked with Vogue in the UK through the late 1950's, and
he was part of a sea change in the attitude of people in the
UK after World War II.
Some of the like-minded thinkers who were in Duffy's
clique included Vidal Sassoon, Peter O'Toole and Michael Caine.
Even some of London's famous gangsters were found in the company
of actors and photographers in London's trendier restaurants.
There were always people who wanted to meet Duffy, and he spent
some time with The Beatles, as well.
Duffy allowed his son to apprentice when the boy
was young. He already had two assistants, but his son was eager
to learn his father's trade. Chris moved up the studio ladder
when one assistant left and eventually became his father's first
assistant, traveling the world with him. Duffy taught his son
much about cameras and lenses, and the ways to use them effectively.
Brian Duffy went into every photo session the
same way, whether he was working with celebrities or common
people. He felt that his was a trade, and he eagerly tackled
fashion spreads and landscapes just as he did celebrity record
covers. He was an abrasive man to many, and it's said that his
photographs truly reflected his controversial nature.
Brian Duffy's photograph of John Lennon
Duffy had studied fashion design but originally
his desire was to become a painter. He attended London's St.
Martin's Art College but changed to dress design. He excelled
in this area, with a keen eye for garments and fabrics. He took
a lot of this experience with him into his work as a fashion
photographer. He felt that each fashion photograph should show
how garments "worked". But his best so-called trick
was allowing the model to appear as though she owned the clothing,
and was not simply a pretty mannequin.
In 1962 Duffy was at French Elle magazine, and
he helped them to move away from the posed photographs most
commonly seen in that time. He inspired them to create a more
fluid look and style that resonated with a wider audience of
Duffy also dabbled in restoring furniture, and
had a wood craftsman's workshop behind his photography studio.
He enjoyed the process of designing things and then making them.
After he quit photography, he became a high-profile member of
a restoration association for elitists, known as BAFRA. The
initials stand for British Antique Furniture Restoration Association.
Duffy was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in
2005. It was a disease that can take a life in as little as
one year or as many as ten, and he had just returned to photography
when he passed away.