Brian Duffy

Brian Duffy was a highly successful photographer throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, working for the Sunday Times, The Observer, Glamour, Esquire and Town Magazine while also having two stints with the French edition of Elle magazine. He also had a close ten year relationship with artist David Bowie who he would go on to produce three album covers including the iconic album Aladdin Sane.

Born in 1933 he spent the second world war between evacuations to the countryside and in London due to his mothers unhappiness at the family being split up. After a troubled start at school Brian was invited on to a council scheme to get troubled youths interested in culture. This led to Brian applying to join Saint Martins School of Art to study painting but once noticing the skill of the other children he opted to join dressmaking due to the number of pretty girls on the course. Finishing school in 1953 he went straight into work as an assistant designer at Susan Small Dresses before moving on to Victor Steibel who was the favourite designer to Princess Margaret.

Turning freelance in 1955 Brian Duffy worked at Harper’s Bazaar and it was during his time here that he first came into contact with photography. Being inspired by the photographic contact sheets he saw he decided to find work as a photographers assistant. After applying for a few positions he was successful in working at Carlton Studios before furthering his career at Cosmopolitan Artists. During his time here he learnt many of the basics and became a proficient assistant which led him onto working as assistant to photographer Adrian Flowers and it was during his time with Flowers the he received his first commission, from the fashion editor of The Sunday Times.

He then spent a 6 year period working for British Vogue which saw him working with some of the top models of the period.

He his most fondly remembered for his work as part of the ‘Terrible Three’ the name given by the British press to Duffy, David Bailey, and Terence Donovan. Each individually and together redefined the understanding of a fashion/advertising photographer and by doing so captured and encouraged the ‘Swinging London’ of the 60’s.

It was his work for both Benson & Hedges and Smirnoff that initially drew me to work of Duffy, along with the Aladdin Sane cover due to being a fan of David Bowie. The award winning campaigns for each company appear somewhat very ahead of their times with the photographic techniques and futuristic mood due to the use of colours and abstract multi exposure images.

2919This first image of Brian Duffy is from the Smirnoff campaign titled U-Boat Campaign. The interesting conceptual design of this photograph gives the illusion of a U-Boat submarine surfacing in a swimming pool where a glamours women is sat at the edge drinking Smirnoff, the captain as its rising is reaching out for a glass. This striking image really grabs the viewer, its intelligent composition is fun and effecting in grabbing the interest of the viewer. In a not so subtle use of subject the advertisement screams cool and glamour that would effectively sell the product to the public. The interesting use of light focused on the left of the frame leaves me asking why, although its clear to see the light is effectively focusing us on the focal point, the darker side on the right of the image seems to struggle to balance the image.


This next image from the Benson & Hedges campaign is although nowadays unheard of due to restrictions on cigarette advertising a brilliant image in its own right. The persona given across here is to appear ‘cool’ the luxury cane handle with the gold sovereign ring with the cigarette carton design is supposed to grab, in my opinion a mans attention, the coffee stain ring at the back of the photograph adds to the photographs depth as it balances the darker portion of the cane.

These contemporary and conceptual advertising photographs are some of the inspiration for the photographs of my assignment 5 in digital photographic practise. The combination of elements in the first image, combined with the simplicity of the second shows the effectiveness of each variations, something I will aim to show in my assignment.







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