Published: July 17, 2001
NEW HAVEN, CONN – When Anthony Armstrong-Jones married Princess Margaret in 1960, he became the Earl of Snowdon. Before, during, and after his marriage, Lord Snowdon was one of Britain’s leading photographers. On June 16, 2001, the Yale Center for British Art will open the only American showing of Snowdon’s retrospective. Organized by London’s National Portrait Gallery, the exhibition will run through September 2 and features over 180 works by this remarkable photographer.
For over fifty years Lord Snowdon has photographed the leading figures in the world of art for Vogue, Vanity Fair, and London’s Telegraph magazine. In addition to the artist’s witty and irreverent fashion photographs and portrayals of the socially prominent for which he is best known, the exhibition also includes Lord Snowdon’s intimate and engaging documentary photographs that reveal an inquisitive and compassionate eye.
The exhibition includes some of Lord Snowdon’s photo-journalism, documenting locations abroad as well as the treatment of the mentally ill at home. “I am always suspicious if photographs are too beautiful,” he observed. A friend and associate of the famous and the glamorous, Lord Snowdon surprises with his range of sympathy. This retrospective dramatizes a rounded career with sharp edges.
From an early stage Snowdon deliberately moved away from the stately and stuffy English version of fashion and theatrical photography. He used a miniature camera and launched a new turning in British photography. Intimacy, intensity and informality characterize his portraits of artists and writers, actors and designers. “You have to strip people of their poses and disguises,” he once remarked. Whether it is the art historian and spy, Anthony Blunt, caught with a slide reflected on his eyeball, or J.R.R. Tolkien, gripped in middle earth by the vast roots of a spreading oak, British society, English writers and artists, performers and designers, nobles and commoners were caught with a new candor and style.
Lord Snowdon is also a frequent contributor to publications. Describing his work from his first book London, he said, “I believe that photographs should be simple technically, and easy to look at. They shouldn’t be directed at other photographers; their point is to make ordinary people react-to laugh, or to see something they hadn’t taken in before, or to be touched. But not to wince, I think.”
Lord Snowdon studied architecture for two years at Cambridge. He began his career taking photographs of people in the theater at the encouragement of his uncle, the stage designer and artist, Oliver Messel. He is also renown for his work as a designer, writer, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, a designer of theater sets, skiwear, clocks, furniture, and motorized wheelchairs. In collaboration with Cedric Price and Frank Newby, Lord Snowdon designed the aviary at the London Zoo. He is also an active lobbyist for equal opportunities for the disabled.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, Photographs by Snowdon: A Retrospective, with contributions by Drusilla Beyfus, Simon Callow, Georgina Howell, Patrick Kinmonth, Anthony Powell, Carl Toms, and Marjorie Wallace. Published by Harry N. Abrams, the catalogue features over 200 illustrations and includes many previously unpublished photographs.
The Yale Center for British Art is at 1080 Chapel Street on the corner of High Street, and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm, and Sunday, 12 – 5 pm. Admission is free. For information, (203) 432-2800
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