Terence Donovan (1936 1996), now represented by ATLAS Photography Gallery
, was one of the foremost photographers of his generation, with a career spanning almost 40 years. He came to prominence in London as part of a postwar renaissance in art, design and music, representing a new force in fashion and, later, advertising and portrait photography.
Donovan operated at the heart of Londons swinging sixties, both as participant in and observer of the world he so brilliantly and incisively captured with his camera. Gifted with an unerring eye for the iconic as well as the transformative, Donovan was a master of his craft, a technical genius who pushed the limits of what was possible with a camera, but also as an accomplished artist.
Donovan never had gallery representation in his lifetime, nor selling exhibitions. Always focused on future photo-shoots and assignments, he never went back to revisit and reprint past images. As a result, lifetime prints are incredibly rare and precious. We are delighted to be able to offer a great selection of vintage lifetime prints and unique contact prints, in addition to Estate prints of his most iconic images.
Born into a working class family in East London, Donovan was fascinated by photography and printmaking from an early age. His professional photographic life started at the age of 11 with an apprenticeship at the London School of Photo-Engraving. He left at 15 to become a photographers assistant before opening his own studio in 1959, at the age of twenty two. He was immediately sought after by a range of clients, including leading advertising agencies and fashion and lifestyle magazines of the time, such as Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Elle (France).
Part of a working class influx into the previously rarefied worlds of fashion, media and the arts, Donovans iconoclastic and sometimes irreverent photography established a new visual language rooted in the world he knew best the streets of Londons East End. Taking his models to bomb-ravaged wastegrounds or balancing them off industrial building sites, his gritty and noir-ish style was more like reportage than fashion photography.
Donovan worked for some of the most progressive magazines of the time including Queen, Town and London Life and his images became emblematic of the era. He both documented and helped create the much-mythologised culture of 1960s London, and was amongst the first wave of celebrity photographers, socialising with, as well as photographing, the actors, musicians, designers and models who came to represent the decade.
In the 1970s Donovan concentrated more specifically on advertising photography and moving image work but the late 1980s and early 1990s marked a return to stills photography, with Donovan revisiting black and white film his preferred medium during the early years of his career.
In 1996, thirty years after London first swung, Donovan was once again commissioned to capture the spirit of the age, photographing a portfolio of British musicians including Jarvis Cocker and Bryan Ferry for the Cool Britannia issue of GQ magazine. This series, published in the December issue, proved to be his last significant body of work.
Despite his famously wide-ranging and diverse interests, Donovans passion for photography remained undiminished throughout his long career. In 1963 he told a young Jean Shrimpton: photography fascinates me. Instant fascination every time. When the fascination leaves me, Ill give it up.