Mr. Peacock took this photo of the late British photographer, Norman Parkinson, in the late 1980’s at the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado. The theme of the conference was entitled, Outlook: Views of British Design. Norman Parkinson was a key note speaker, while Mr. Peacock was attending the conference as a student. My chum, Allison, and I stalked him for the entire week of the conference—cornering him any moment he was alone to talk with him and ask him questions. This gentleman peacock was tall, lanky and very tan with a prominent mustache. I was quiet star struck and mesmerized by his dapper and eccentric style. Mr. Parkinson was always so gracious and witty. I took 2 different photographs of him, and of course I asked his permission each time. The other photo I shot, is a portrait of him sitting down, unfortunately I can’t find it, but if I do, I will post it later.
A self -portrait with a model from the 1970’s.
He gave a lecture entitled, Just Take the Picture, in which he shared anecdote’s about his five decade career as a leading photographer. He told many witty stories, and I remember one in particular, in which he was comparing current female models to models from previous decades. He explained that he arrived at a photo shoot to photograph some swimsuits on a very popular model of the day. He noticed the “cleaning woman” come in and go straight to the hair and make-up room. He kept wondering when the model was going to show up, not realizing that the “cleaning woman” was the model. After hours of hair and make up, the model was ready to be photographed. He said models from previous decades didn’t need hours of hair and make-up or retouching to make them beautiful—they were natural beauties and you could photograph them without any make-up. And just who was that “cleaning woman” model? ...It was the Australian model, Elle Macpherson.
Mr. Parkinson had his first one-man exhibition at age 22, in 1935, that included portraits of Vivien Leigh and Noel Coward. He was recruited by Harper’s Bazaar to take photographs after the exhibit. In 1947, he meets, photographs and marries the promising young actress, Wenda Rogerson. Wenda produced many of his most famous images. In 1949, he began working for American Vogue. Over the years he shot many famous images of Dovima, Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, and Jerry Hall—just to name a few. He had such a great sense of humor and that really comes through much of his work.
In this self portrait, he’s wearing the same belt that he was wearing in the photograph I took of him. I love it when peacocks wear their favorite wardrobe items over and over again, but in different ways.
This portrait of Mr. Parkinson was taken in 1960, by Terence Donovan.
In this shot from 1962, Mr. Parkinson wraps model, Celia Hammond in a sheet, and joins her in the shot.
This photo from 1949, for American Vogue, is one of my favorite Norman Parkinson photographs. I love the blur of the New York City taxi in the background.
Mr. Peacock also likes this graphic image from the late 1960’s.
You can buy a high quality Norman Parkinson art print of this iconic photo of Jerry Hall,taken in 1975 for Vogue Magazine, here. It would look chic in a chrome frame hanging in a bathroom. You can also purchase limited edition, hand processed color prints here, from the Norman Parkinson Archive.
I feel fortunate that I was able to meet and hear Norman Parkinson talk about his life and ideas, because in 1990, while on an assignment, he passed away at age 77. His own peacock style was as iconic as his photography. There are numerous books on Norman Parkinson’s work that you can buy here, and add to your library. I’m sure you’ll recognize many of his iconic images. Thank you Mr. Parkinson for both your photographic and sartorial inspiration!