Farewell Duffy – A Photographer Who Defined a Generation of London Cool

June 4, 2010 | By Bob Ahern | Archive


A self-portrait by British photographer Brian Duffy, 1968. (Photo by Duffy/Getty Images)

It’s with much sadness that we received news yesterday that photographer Brian Duffy (1933-2010) has died. Although unwell for some time his passing was nonetheless unexpected, and comes just as his body of work was beginning to enjoy a re-appraisal and return to the spotlight it deserves.  There is much that can be written about Duffy: how he helped shape our image of swinging London in the 60’s, how along with David Bailey and Terence Donovan he trail blazed and helped change the face of magazine photography, and there will be rightly much talk of that in the obits.

On a personal note, over the last 18 months  I was lucky enough to have worked with Duffy’s archive, and had the opportunity to edit work that hasn’t seen the light of day for decades. Uncovering shoots with the movers and shakers of  London in it’s swinging heyday was quite simply the picture editors holy grail.

I met Duffy for the first time at our London gallery when he came in to see if he ‘could do business’ with Getty Images. Thankfully it turned out he could, but not before he gave me the grilling of a lifetime in which time his conversation turned from photographing horse droppings  (in not so many words) to why he never got punched using a Rolleiflex. And going through his negs in the subsequent weeks and months (those negs which survived the burning his archives in 1979) to me they spoke volumes about the man; artful, difficult, baffling, irreverent,  insightful,  charming and quite unique. The sad loss of a true great indeed.

Take a look back at the man himself and the incredible imagery he created.

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