Norman Parkinson ‘Breaking Out’ of the Studio
01st February 2023
Norman Parkinson was a master of colour photography, celebrated for his innovative approach to the medium. ‘I wanted to take the scent-laden atmosphere out of photographs,’ he once said, describing the fresh creativity he bought to the somewhat sombre genres of fashion in the 1930s.
Parkinson began working in a time of great social upheaval, and the clothing and poses in fashion photography during this period reflected this. They remained unadventurous and simple, the models rarely escaping the four walls of a studio. However, the emerging cultural movement of Surrealism began to give people a sense of escapism within photography, encouraging photographers to adopt new principles in their work. Having a profound impact on fashion magazines, photographers began to leave behind the sober and restrained images to offer a more fantastical distraction, challenging exceptions of reality and aiming to amuse or shock.
Signified as one of the true pioneers in his field, Norman Parkinson revolutionised the boundaries of the era by bringing the model out of the formal, conventional studio environment and into a more dynamic outdoor scene. Shooting solely in natural light, he set his models against atypical backdrops and creating a narrative in his images that pushed his fashion shoots beyond their principle task of selling clothes.
Often deliberately disrupting expectations of good or poor technique, his images were inspired by the photographer Martin Munkacsi. Parkinson’s style of shooting was important in capturing an essence of spontaneity that altered the way an audience looked at clothes. In his work, he often utilised a juxtaposition of the untouchable beauty of the model and a realistic backdrop, such as a gritty working-class district of London. This technique spearheaded ‘action realism’, an important photographic approach in fashion photography that lives on today.
Jerry Hall, when describing her experience with Parkinson, alludes to this candid action realism that set to destroy the rigid formalities of his photography precursors, ‘Well, he was always saying, “Climb up on that thing!”’ The life as a model for Parkinson never had a dull moment, his novel photographs creating the age of the supermodel and remaining important in the history of photography.
The ArtistRenowned for taking his subjects out of the studio, fashion photographer Norman Parkinson broke the mould by photographing his models in outdoor settings and natural light.Artist Page
Fashion Models on the Condé Nast building, Lexington Ave, NYC, 1949
Starting at £3,000
Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy at ‘Villa Rolli’ farmhouse in Cecchina, Italy, 1955
Starting at £10,000