‘I don’t give a f**k what anybody thinks about me…. I never wanted to be famous. Why? For what? So the doorman at Harrods can recognise me? What I care about is what my kids think about me, and what my grandchildren think of me – the fact that they think I’m a genius is delicious.’ - Brian Duffy.
Duffy was both rival and contemporary of David Bailey and Terence Donovan. This “terrible trio” as the British press had dubbed them, were the innovators of “documentary” fashion photography, a style which revolutionised fashion imagery and furthermore the fashion industry.
The ‘Trio’ became far more famous than many of the models, with whom they worked, and were, for a while, even bigger than the glossy magazines that published their pictures.
Beginning his career at Vogue Magazine, Duffy made his name in fashion and celebrity photography and went on to become one of only a few photographers to have shot two Pirelli calendars.
Few celebrities of the 1960s and 1970s escaped Duffy’s lens, which created memorable and sometimes iconic images of sitters including, probably most famously David Bowie, Jane Birkin, John Lennon, Blondie, Sir Michael Caine, Jean Shrimpton (The Shrimp), William Burroughs, Sidney Poitier, Terence Stamp and a naked Christine Keeler, whose scandalous affairs, famously almost brought down the British Government.
His work was dynamic and inventive, as can be seen in the memorable 1973 album cover he shot for David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, but in 1979, disillusioned with the business, he took his transparencies and negatives into his studios garden and set them alight in a ceremonial finale to his career as a photographer, having felt that he had said all he could say in the medium. Thankfully, not all the negatives were destroyed!
Although Duffy wasn’t concerned with his own fame, the legacy he leaves us is unquestionable and he will no doubt continue to inspire for generations to come.