Norman Parkinson [1913 – 1990] was a celebrated British fashion and portrait photographer who revolutionized the industry with his dynamic and spontaneous style.
He was known for moving his subjects out of the studio and into natural settings, capturing candid moments, and injecting a sense of energy and vitality into his images.
Parkinson’s work graced the pages of renowned magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Queen, and he collaborated with iconic figures such as Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy, and the British royal family.
His photographs captured the essence of the Swinging Sixties and the changing face of fashion, earning him the title of “the photographer who made fashion fun.”
Parkinson’s legacy continues to inspire and influence generations of photographers, and his work remains a testament to his artistry, innovation, and enduring impact on fashion photography.
Photography Quotes From Norman Parkinson
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Norman Parkinson was a skilled chef and enjoyed hosting dinner parties at his home.
Videos about Norman Parkinson
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Norman Parkinson was a passionate gardener and spent much of his free time tending to his garden at his home in Kent, England.
Photography Books: Norman Parkinson
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Norman Parkinson’s work was instrumental in shaping the visual identity of mid-20th century fashion.
Biography of Norman Parkinson
Early Life and Education
Norman Parkinson, born Ronald William Parkinson Smith on April 21, 1913, in London, England, was destined to become one of the most celebrated fashion photographers of the 20th century. Raised in a comfortable middle-class family, Parkinson developed an early interest in the arts, but photography captured his imagination and set the course for his extraordinary career.
Parkinson attended Westminster School but left at the age of 16. He never received formal training in photography, which contributed to his unorthodox and innovative approach to the medium.
Beginnings of a Photographic Career
In 1931, at 18 years old, Parkinson became an apprentice to the renowned court photographers Speaight and Son Ltd. This early experience in portrait photography laid the foundation for his later work.
He opened his own studio in 1934, focusing on portrait and fashion photography. His style was noticeably different from the conventional stiff and formal approaches of the time. Instead, Parkinson preferred outdoor settings and natural light, bringing a sense of movement and spontaneity to his photographs.
Rise to Prominence
Parkinson’s big break came in 1938 when he was hired by Harper’s Bazaar. His work for the magazine marked a turning point in fashion photography.
He brought models out of the studio and into the streets, parks, and exotic locations, injecting a sense of adventure and glamour into his images. This innovative approach changed how fashion was photographed and how it was perceived by the public.
During World War II, Parkinson served as a reconnaissance photographer for the Royal Air Force. After the war, he returned to fashion photography with renewed vigor and creativity.
Signature Style and Contributions
Parkinson’s style was characterized by elegance, whimsy, and a touch of eccentricity. He had a knack for putting his models at ease, resulting in images that were both stylish and accessible. His photographs often contained an element of storytelling, setting them apart in an era where fashion photography was primarily focused on the clothes.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Parkinson worked extensively for Vogue magazine, becoming one of its star photographers. His work from this period includes some of the era’s most iconic images, featuring celebrities, models, and members of the British Royal Family.
Global Travels and Later Career
Parkinson’s work took him around the world, from Africa to Asia, the Americas, and beyond. He had an eye for exotic and dramatic landscapes, which he skillfully used as backdrops for his fashion shoots. These travels brought a global dimension to his work and influenced the fashion world more broadly.
In the later stages of his career, Parkinson continued to innovate. He embraced color photography and continued to work for major publications, including Town and Country and the British magazine Queen. His ability to adapt and evolve kept him at the forefront of the fashion photography world for five decades.
Personal Life and Legacy
Parkinson was married twice, first to Margaret Banks, with whom he had two children, and later to Wenda Rogerson, a model and frequent subject of his photographs. His partnerships, especially with Wenda, played a significant role in shaping his artistic output.
Norman Parkinson passed away on February 15, 1990, in Singapore while on a shoot for Town and Country. He left behind a legacy as a pioneer of fashion photography, known for his creativity, elegance, and the joyous spirit of his work.
His influence can still be seen in the pages of fashion magazines today, where the boundaries between fashion, art, and lifestyle photography continue to blur – a testament to Parkinson’s enduring impact on the world of photography.