Super Nova: How Terence Donovan Revolutionised Fashion Photography

23rd September 2021
Twiggy, 1966 Terence Donovan

Words Eleanor Lerman

23rd September 2021

Read Time: 1 minute

Terence Donovan is noted for his revolutionary approach to fashion photography during the 1960s, notably moving away from the highly glamorous and contrived nature of the previous decade. Donovan’s career spanned four decades, with the artist producing some of the most famous images in British fashion history for international magazines including Vogue, Elle, Nova, and Harper’s Bazaar. Donovan worked alongside David Bailey and Brian Duffy, with the three photographers dubbed as the ‘Black Trinity’ by Norman Parkinson. The group captured Swinging London, a postwar celebration in art, fashion, graphic design and photography.

Celia Hammond, Queen, 1963 Terence Donovan

    Donovan began his professional career at the age of 11, working as a photographer’s assistant at the London School of Photo-Engraving. After working for a year at the John French studio, he opened his own photographic studio in 1959 at the age of 22. Donovan’s studio was instantly successful, attracting a wide range of clients including advertising agencies and popular fashion and lifestyle magazines of the time.

    Primarily shooting in monochrome, Donovan created a new visual language that was branded as iconoclastic and irreverent. Looking for inspiration, the artist turned towards his local area – London’s East End. Often using 35mm film cameras and a long lens, Donovan searched out bomb-ravaged wastegrounds, steelworks, and iron bridges, combining the luxurious models amongst everyday, gritty environments. His high contrast photographs created something touchable and immediate and, according to the model Grace Coddington, ‘to achieve this, they took them into the streets. They took them to places they would hang out in, and they just made it very real. Everything just got much more touchable, sexual and sensual’. Donovan’s innovative approach to fashion photography thus revolutionised the photography landscape from the 1960s onwards.

    FeaturedTerence Donovan

    Terence Donovan Sol LDN

    The ArtistTerence Donovan came to prominence in London during the 1960s as part of a post-war cultural renaissance in Britain. With David Bailey and Brian Duffy – photographers of a similar background and outlook – Donovan was perceived as a new force in British fashion photography.

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