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December 9, 2014

Wonderful Fashion Photography of 1950s by Norman Parkinson

Norman Parkinson (1913–1990) was a celebrated English portrait and fashion photographer. He always maintained he was a craftsman and not an artist. From his early days as a photographer up to his death he remained one of the foremost British portrait and fashion photographers.

Parkinson’s fame grew once he began working for Harper’s Bazaar (from the mid 1930s) and Vogue (from around 1945). Inspired by the work of Hungarian photographer, Martin Munkácsi, who photographed his models in the open air, Parkinson specialized in a joyful, kinetic brand of fashion photography. His models were often outside, playing golf, riding in speedboats, jumping and even, in one famous case, riding an ostrich.

Before Parkinson’s arrival at British Vogue in the early 1930s, the magazine, in the infancy of color photography, had relied on imported photographers from Europe and America, and on material borrowed from its American sister publication. Though this would continue out of necessity during the war years, Parkinson’s English pastoralism gave British Vogue a distinct identity. Parkinson’s first photograph for Vogue was taken in the countryside in 1941; a fashion shot of a utilitarian cycling outfit. Followed swiftly by two spreads entitled ‘The Freedom of the Farm’, this was the start of an association that would last, with a five-year break in the 1960s, until it was terminated in 1978 in a dispute over copyright.

To add to the glamour, many of Parkinson’s shoots were set abroad, often in Africa or the Caribbean – he even moved to live in Tobago in 1963. This lent his work an exotic, jet-set appeal that was very popular in Britain, particularly during the austere 1950s.

Fuschia - for Autumn brilliance, British Vogue, August 1957.

Anne Gunning outside the City Palace, Vogue, November 1956.

Anne Gunning wearing an evening dress in rose red chiffon, British Vogue, November 1956.

Audrey Hepburn, US Glamour, 1955.

Barbara Goalen, London Collections, Norman Parkinson Barbara Goalen, London Collections, British Vogue, September 1950.

Barbara Mullen at the Red Fort, British Vogue, November 1956.

Coming and Going, British Vogue, September 1958.

Floating with flowers, British Vogue, November 1956.

Honeycomb marble at the Red Fort, British Vogue, November 1956.

Knitted in Scotland, British Vogue, February 1952.

Le Groux Soeurs Hat, Vogue, 1952.

Paddy Fields in the late summer, British Vogue, November 1956.

Precision Built: jets and suits, all-British, British Vogue, February 1954.

Romantic Quality, British Vogue, February 1951.

Scandinavia (Wenda Parkinson and Furniture), British Vogue, July 1955.

Simonetta Visconti, US Vogue, 15 February 1952.

Sun and Sea, British Vogue, May 1957.

The Amber Palace, British Vogue, November 1956.

The Art of Travel, British Vogue, May 1951.

The shore temple at Mahabalipuram, British Vogue, November 1956.

The Taj Mahal seen across the swirling Jumna River, British Vogue, November 1956.

Traffic, 1957.

Woven in Scotland’, British Vogue, February 1952.

Zulu War Dance, British Vogue, 1951.

(All photos © Norman Parkinson / courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive)


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