PODCAST: A Photographic Life, Episode 24: Plus Photographer Brian Duffy

In episode 24 UNP founder and curator Grant Scott considers writing and photography. The use of captions and the provision of text to provide context on websites, in books and as part of a photographic exhibition, and the first steps to consider when looking to get commissioned.

Plus this week legendary photographer Brian Duffy recalls making the iconic image of David Bowie and designing the iconic 1973 album cover Aladdin Sane as well as revealing the inspiration for Bowie’s zig-zag make-up. This brief audio is extracted from a telephone conversation between Duffy and Grant Scott recorded shortly before Duffy’s death in 2010.


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In 1955 Duffy began freelancing as a fashion artist for Harper’s Bazaar magazine where he first came into contact with commercial photography. Inspired by the photographic contact sheets he saw passing through the art director’s desk he sought a job as a photographers assistant, and was subsequently employed at Carlton studios and then at Cosmopolitan Artists. Duffy went on to work as an assistant to the photographer Adrian Flowers and whilst working for Flowers he received his first photographic commission for the The Sunday Times magazine.

In 1957 Duffy was hired by British Vogue where he remained working until 1963. With fellow photographers; David Bailey and Terence Donovan, Duffy was a key player in the ‘Black Trinity’ as affectionately named by Norman Parkinson, who redefined not only the aesthetic of fashion photography but also the place of the photographer within the industry.

Apart from Vogue, Duffy also worked for numerous publications including Glamour, Esquire, Town, Queen, The Observer, The Sunday Times and the Telegraph Magazine. Duffy was also a highly successful commercial advertising photographer. In 1968 he set up a film production company with Len Deighton and went on to produce the film adaptations of Deighton’s book Only When I Larf (1967), and of the musical Oh! What a Lovely War.

Duffy had an eight-year working relationship with David Bowie and shot five key sessions over this period providing the creative concept as well as the photographic image for three album covers, including the 1973 Aladdin Sane, 1979 Lodger and 1980 Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).

The story of his life and work is documented in a BBC documentary titled The Man Who Shot the 60’sDuffy died in May 2010, after suffering from the degenerative lung disease pulmonary fibrosis. www.duffyphotographer.com

You can also access and subscribe to these podcasts at SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/unofphoto

and on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/a-photographic-life/id1380344701

Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer in Professional Photography at the University of Gloucestershire, a working photographer, and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Focal Press 2014) and The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Focal Press 2015). His next book #New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in January 2019.

His documentary film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay will be screened across the UK and the US in 2018.

© Grant Scott 2018


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