Audio: Brian Duffy in Conversation: 2010

Above: Brian Duffy: Self Portrait 1968
Above: Brian Duffy: Self Portrait 1968

This telephone conversation was recorded with photographic legend Brian Duffy early in 2010, shortly before he died from the degenerative lung disease pulmonary fibrosis in May of that year. In this conversation with UNP founder Grant Scott, Duffy discuss’s his career, his views on photography today, his work in the Sixties and his video and stills work with David Bowie. He also explains where the inspiration came from for his iconic cover for Bowie’s Aladdin Sane.

This conversation is hosted on our Sound Cloud page and can be accessed by clicking on this link.


*Please note that this recording contains strong language from the beginning.

Brian Duffy

In 1955 Duffy began freelancing as a fashion artist for Harper’s Bazaar. It was here that he first came into contact with photography. Inspired by the photographic contact sheets he saw passing through the art director’s desk he decided to find a job as a photographers assistant. Unsuccessfully, he applied for a job with John French, after which he managed to get a job at Carlton studios and then at Cosmopolitan Artists. He left there to take a job as assistant to the photographer Adrian Flowers. While working for Flowers he received his first photographic commission from Ernestine Carter, the then fashion editor of The Sunday Times.

In 1957 he was hired by British Vogue where he remained working until 1963. 

As well as working for Vogue, Duffy worked for publications including GlamourEsquireTown MagazineQueen Magazine as well as The Observer, The Sunday Times’ and The Daily Telegraph. He also worked for Swiss Art Director Peter Knapp and later Foulia Elia for French Elle for two periods the first between 1963 and 1968, and the second between 1971 and 1979.

Duffy was also a highly successful commercial advertising photographer shooting award winning campaigns for both Benson & Hedges and Smirnoff in the 1970s.

In 1965 Duffy was asked to create a Pirelli calendar which he shot on location in Monaco. He was commissioned to shoot a second calendar in 1973 which he created in collaboration with British pop artist Allen Jones and air brush specialist Phillip Castle.

In 1967 he set up a film production company with the author Len Deighton called Deighton Duffy and went on to produce the film adaptations of Deighton’s book Only When I Larf (1968), and of the musical Oh! What a Lovely War, which was released in 1969.

Duffy had a ten year working relationship with artist David Bowie and shot five key sessions over this period and was the creative force behind record album sleeve art for three album covers, including the 1973 Aladdin Sane, 1979 Lodger and 1980 Scary Monsters & Super Creeps on which Duffy shot the photographs and then employed the services of artist Edward Bell to paint onto the photographs.

In 1979 Duffy decided to give up photography, supposedly burning many of his negatives, though some were saved from the fire when the council objected to the smoke. Although a large number of his images have been lost, the ones that remain stand collectively as a comprehensive visual history of twenty-five years of British culture and fashion.

Duffy exited the world of still photography and entered the world of the TV Commercials and in 1981 joined film production company Lewin Matthews. 1983 Duffy directed the music video for Spandau Ballet’s Gold and shot two pop promos for The Human League. In 1986 Duffy set up his own film production company 3DZ with his two sons Chris and Carey and pioneered the Super16 film format shooting many TV commercials and pop promos. By 1990 Duffy retired from all image making and followed a lifelong passion for furniture and became an accredited BAFRA (British Antique Furniture Restoration Association) restorer.

The story of his life and work is documented in a BBC documentary shown in January 2010 titled The Man Who Shot the 60s.

In 2009 Duffy’s son Chris started The Duffy Archive and in October 2009 Duffy’s work was exhibited at his first ever show at Chris Beetles Gallery in London.

In June 2011 Duffy’s son Chris, authored a monograph of Duffy’s images which was published by ACC Editions titled Duffy – Photographer and featured over 160 iconic images from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

© Grant Scott 2013

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