Norman Parkinson, Fashion photographer
21st April 2020 14.38 pm
As I was having a quiet moment having my cup of tea and searching for something in the internet, I stumbled an image in social media telling me it was Norman Parkinson's birthday, which coincidentally it is also the same day as Grace Coddington, former model and Americas Vogue magazine creative director at large. Which is also the same day as my mother- who was a fashion model in Buenos Aires!
I then start reading up more about Norman Parkinson as it has been years I've looked at his work since I was in the University library, so I needed to refresh my mind.
It turns out CBE Norman Parkinson 21 April -1913- 15 February 1990, birth name (Ronald William Parkinson Smith) was born in London and educated at Westminster School, which mistakenly, I always thought he was American because of his images.
He began his career in 1931 as an apprentice to the court photographers, Speaight and Sons Ltd. Then he opened his own studio in 1934 with Norman Kibblewhite, at 1, Dover Street nearby London's Piccadilly.
From 1935 to 1940, he worked for Harpers Bazaar and Bysatnder magazines.
In 1941 after leaving Harper's Bazaar he started a long collaboration with Vogue where he stablished a long working relationship with Grace Coddington at Vogue, whom he first met in 1959. when she was working in a bistro in London.
His images were something quite different at the time, not only with the use of beautiful colour palettes but by taking the models out of the studio on location outdoors and travel to exotic places like India
“Back then shoots abroad would always last at least two weeks – we really had the luxury of time; we’d spend at least a week on the ground scouting for locations – which meant you really got to see and understand a place. Like finding new faces, Parkinson was amazing at finding narratives in places and could conjure powerful images from almost any given surrounding. He wasn't thinking about something else or the next job, he was always in the moment, completely focussed.
“Nowadays you learn what you can from a guidebook beforehand or from location shots but everyone gets the same thing – everything is done in such a hurry; shoots are crammed into a day and the photographer is expected to produce hundreds of shots – you never get in your own personal view. Parkinson made every place so personal because he looked at it through his eyes, not anyone else’s. That's the biggest lesson he taught me: not to rely on other people's opinions but to forge your own, really explore and look. It's certainly done well for me.”
In 1963 Parkinson moved to Tobago ( funnily enough where my father grew up ! )
although frequently returned to London, and from 1964 until his death he worked as a freelance photographer.
Stunning image above of
Marie-Hélène Arnaud photographed for the cover of the August 1957 issue of British Vogue.
The Rover 10 was spray painted pink for the shoot !!!
"A photographer without a magazine behind him is like a farmer without fields."
"I like to make people look as good as they'd like to look, and with luck, a shade better" — Norman Parkinson
Fashion shoots on location in India and Kenya bellow
“I like there to be a joke in practically every photo I take. Nobody has the right to make photography boring."
Grace Coddington photographed by Norman Parkinson in Jamaica, 1975 , left Image.