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September 3, 2022

Birds of Britain: Photographer Captured the Beauties of London in the Swinging Sixties

Birds of Britain, an acclaimed book of photographs by John d Green, was published in September 1967. The book featured John d Green’s strikingly individual, unconventional and witty portraits of 58 of the girls who made London swing – actresses, models, aristocrats, fashion designers, boutique owners and pop singers.

The cover featured a close-up color portrait of Pattie Boyd, scrunching her nose to try and shake off a beetle painted with a union jack, while inside the covers, the spectacular portraits were all black and white. A contemporary review called it “one of the most exciting photographic picture-books in a time of picture-books.”

Birds of Britain was a huge mainstream success, selling 60,000 copies (at a time when most coffee table books would have a print run of 3,000 copies), prompting newspaper headlines and serializations, TV appearances, outrage from parents of some of the girls featured in the book, a lavish launch party at Sibylla’s nightclub, a high-profile promotional tour of the USA for John, his friend, art director David Tree, and some of the girls, and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
“Miniskirts and the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and now the Birds. That means girls – feathery and soft, swinging and defiantly independent… Who is the London girl? John d Green and his associates went through the agonies of choice, and here are fifty-five, not one of which is the typical girl. The beauty of this incandescent maelstrom is that each bird is pretty in her own individual way… Julie Christie, Susannah York and Hayley Mills; singers Dusty Springfield and Marianne Faithfull; designer Mary Quant … Many represent the bewildering and fast-changing world of media: films, records, fashion photography, television, and theatre.”
It had all started 18 months earlier, over a pint of beer in Kensington’s Adam and Eve pub with friends in early 1966. John d Green, then one of Britain’s top advertising photographers,  had cut his teeth photographing  every consumer product imaginable. He was at the top of his game, and highly regarded in the advertising industry, but little known outside it. It was time, he felt, to turn his attention to London’s female pacesetters.

The plan, conceived that night in the Adam and Eve by John and his friends and work colleagues David Tree, Terry Howard and Rowland Wells, was to create a fun coffee table book celebrating all the ladies who were key movers on the London scene. In the process, John would have the well-deserved opportunity to raise his profile outside the advertising industry.

The first shoot, with Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon, photographed covered in engine oil, took place on 29 April 1966. Just under twelve months later, in his final session for the book, John photographed Cetra Hearne in a haze of pipe smoke. Six months work on design and layouts and subsequent printing followed, with his close collaborator and art director on the project, David Tree.

Pattie Boyd

Annabella Macartney

Viviane Ventura

Jane Asher

Victoria Mills

Julie Christie

Ingrid Boulting

Martine Beswick

Mary Quant

Mary-Gaye Curzon

Pat Booth

Sandra Paul

Sibylla Edmonstone

Sue Lloyd

Sue Murray

Suzanna Leigh

Fay Browning

Charlotte Rampling

Charlotte Rampling

Annabella Macartney

Dusty Springfield

Ingrid Hepner

Pattie Boyd

Paula Noble

Venetia Cuninghame

Vicky Hodge

Julie Harmer

Marianne Faithfull

Sue Cornwallis

Shirley Anne Field

Jane Birkin

Martine Beswick

Sarah Miles

Susan Maughan

Susannah York

Alexandra Bastedo

Hayley Mills

Edina Ronay

Angela Pringle

Cathy McGowan

Jacquetta Lampson

Jane Asher

Samantha Juste

(via Snap Galleries)


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