Beaton was, barely into his twenties, the chronicler of choice, in large glass plate negatives, of an entire way of life – a time now as remote and vanished as that of some ancient British tribe. During the war, he devoted his skills to the war effort, using a more compact Rolleiflex to capture portraits of civilians and warriors alike, effortlessly migrating from aloof photographer of elites to that of the uniformed, war-zone immortaliser of the common man and woman, and battle damage.
When the new technology of compact 35mm film cameras burst into fashion-magazine use in the early 1960s, Beaton – always a formal studio man at heart, who composed and set up shots as would a film director or an old master painter scheming some grand portrait – found his traditional talents less in demand. The new wave of photographers – David Baileys armed with Nikons and Pentaxes –were the nail in the coffin of the old-style studio artists. Beaton worked on through the 1960s and into his final decade, photographing the likes of Jagger and Warhol, but his golden period was long past. Bailey always liked Beaton, adored and admired him, in fact. The feeling was largely mutual.
Yet now, nearly 40 years after Beaton’s death, the sheer artistry in Beaton’s classic work is shining through, as bright as it was first time round, nearly a century ago. This is what great photography could achieve, before quality cameras became portable and escaped those palatial studios. Some 77 vintage prints are on view in this new show – the largest exhibition of Beaton’s work this century. Look, and marvel.
|What||Cecil Beaton at Beetles & Huxley|
|Where||Beetles + Huxley, 3-5 Swallow St, London , W1B 4DE | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
26 Apr 17 – 20 May 17, Monday - Saturday, 10:00 - 17:30
|Website||Click here for more information|