Norman Parkinson: Young Velvets
For over 70 years, Norman Parkinson stunned the world and inspired his contemporaries with an enigmatic and innovative approach to portrait and fashion photography. He encapsulated the image of the twentieth century fashion, from pre-war fashion austerity of 1930s Britain to the glitz and glamour of the 70s and 80s.
As Norman Parkinson gained recognition as a photographer, between the 1940s and 50s, he frequently collaborated with ‘Vogue’ magazine. When working with Alexander Liberman in New York on the magazine’s American edition, Parkinson shot many renowned images such as ‘Young Velvets, Young Prices, Hat Fashions, 1949’. This image, taken from the roof of the Condé Nast building on Lexington Avenue, was part of the American ‘Vogue’ October 1949 issue ‘Hat Fashions’. The composition features four models in hats, set against the expansive and dynamic Manhattan landscape. The staggering skyline unfolds behind the animated figures, the cities magnitude and beauty enveloping the majority of the composition. Here, Parkinson expertly constructs a graphical composition, exemplified in the piercing diagonal slant of the far-right model’s feather in her hat, angled so to echo and reaffirm the vertical lines of the surrounding architecture.
During his work with American ‘Vogue’, Parkinson was fortunate to have the resulting increased budget, leading him to exhibit colour film works that encapsulated the raw beauty of his newly adopted city. ‘Young Velvets, Young Prices, Hat Fashions, 1949’, exemplifies this newfound use of colour film. The cool blues of the urban landscape are interrupted by accents of red dispersed amongst the lady’s outfits, drawing our eye across the frame from a velvet hat to a highlighted collar and cuff. The focus is drawn to the models in the foreground, who have been candidly snapped mid-gossip and composed to imply a quick and friendly catch up in the midst of a lunch break. The figures are positioned openly, inviting the viewer into the composition and conversation. The unique candid nature of Parkinson’s approach to fashion photography broke free from tradition, remaining innovative amongst the emerging generation of younger artists.
The ArtistRenowned for taking his subjects out of the studio, Norman Parkinson broke the mould by photographing his models in outdoor settings and natural light. This took portrait and fashion photography beyond the stiff formality of his predecessors, injecting an easy and casual elegance into the art.Norman Parkinson
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