Norman Parkinson: Always in Fashion

From 6th November until 7th December, Proud Chelsea is presenting a retrospective exhibition on the genius that is Norman Parkinson. With a career spanning 56 years, the exhibition offers an insight into one of the most renowned fashion photographers of the 21st century. 

The free exhibition, open to all, is on display in the quaint Proud Chelsea gallery, and is a fantastic, inspiring insight into the creative genius that is Norman Parkinson, and features photos from his archives, vintage and modern estate prints.

Through his idiosyncratic style, Parkinson went against the stiff formality that dominated pre-war fashion, instead, he photographed his models in exotic destinations at a time when air travel was in its infant stages.

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His career began at 18, when in 1931 he became an apprentice to a firm of royal photographers in New Bond Street. After setting up his first studio in 1934, his photos graced the pages of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar for over 15 years. His work documented the development of fashion design, modelling and photography through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, serving as a hugely significant historical record of life in the past 50 years.

With a selection of some of the best portraits in Parkinson’s portfolio, Always in Fashion celebrates the glamour and quintessentially British aesthetic that Parkinson became famous for. Jerry Hall posing on a Styrofoam plinth in Russia, in a striking red swimsuit and Manolo Blahnik heels, brilliantly captures Parkinson’s talent and witty humour in photographing fashion. Instantly recognisable with his six foot five frame and handlebar moustache, his flamboyant personality was as famous as the subjects who posed for him.

Highly regarded as the father of modern fashion photography, the exhibit held at Proud features an abundance of vintage prints bursting with glamour and style. His subjects are instantly recognisable; Parkinson is credited with shaping the careers of the like of Jerry hall, Grace Coddington and Nena von Schlebrugge. Parkinson was an innovative impact on the rigid world of fashion, photographed by his predecessors and his refusal to conform throughout his career firmly cemented him at the forefront of modern fashion photography. A truly remarkable individual of the 21st century, his long career and creative approach to fashion has been a source of inspiration for many photographers today.

When he died whilst shooting on location in Singapore for Town and Country in 1990, Norman Parkinson was a household name, photographer to the royal family, an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic society and the subject of a large-scale exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Just as the exhibit at Proud is titled, Always in Fashion, Parkinson’s influence on modern photography and contribution to the world of fashion is as relevant and significant as it was when his images were originally published in the pages of Vogue.

See more at Proud Chelsea, 161 Kings Road, London, SW3 5XP

Pictures: Louise Whitbread

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