Patrick Lichfield is without doubt one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century - his work being of crucial importance in defining the fast-changing social fabric and visual aesthetic of the 60s and 70s. More accurately known as the Earl of Lichfield, his natural flair for connecting with his subjects resulted in iconic imagery which captured the true essence and characteristics of those he met, and the zeitgeist of the time. His archive is a rich collection of 60s and 70s glitterati including Britt Ekland, Jane Birkin, Jacqueline Bisset, The Rolling Stones, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Yves Saint Laurent, whom he photographed within the rose pink walls of his Moroccan hideaway.
Lichfield's work for 'Queen Magazine' and 'Life' in the 60s earned him a regular spot with American Vogue under the fashion direction of its legendary Editor Diana Vreeland, making him one of only five photographers the magazine retained - David Bailey, Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson and Snowdon were the other four. His connection with the fashion bible opened doors and led him on to shoot film stars including Catherine Deneuve, Charlie Chaplin, Dirk Bogarde and Oliver Reed, as well as model Grace Coddington in 1964 - now more commonly recognised as the flame-haired Creative Director of American Vogue.
The son of Viscount Anson and Princess Anne of Denmark, he quickly became part of Swinging London's fashionable set, known for his distinctive and flamboyant style, and being a close friend of British designer Michael Fish who was responsible for creating many key looks of the "Peacock Revolution", including the 'Kipper Tie'. Although thank goodness that's one style which didn't find its way out of the era into modern day fashion, like so many other trends did.
Lichfield was a regular to Mr. Fish's boutique and also supported other young designers of the time, once writing in his autobiography,"Everybody who was anybody had an interest of some sort in a boutique. Mine was in Annacat in South Kensington, started by two of my old girlfriends, Maggie Keswick and Janet Lyle" (Patrick Lichfield, Not The Whole Truth).
Lichfield actually provided financial backing for Annacat - a small boutique which opened in 1965 and was one of very few shops which regularly featured in Vogue. The photographer even leant his name to a short-lived line of menswear for the boutique, which eventually opened a branch in New York. Janet Lyle's aesthetic was a mix of vibrant, colourful fabrics which fused lace trimming and was featured in Richard Lester's, 'Photographing Fashion: British Style in The Sixties'.
Lichfield went on to earn himself the title of 'Royal Photographer' as his status gained predominance in the 80s, when he was chosen to capture the Prince and Princess of Wales' wedding on camera in 1981. Later, despite the explosion of digital media and a surge of new photographers on the scene in the 90s, he remained one of the most inventive pioneers of fashion photography, and a visionary who continued to embrace and move with the times. Lichfield died on Remembrance Day in 2005 with his work well chronicled, and his iconic imagery still inspires contemporary lensman such as Mario Testino. One of the world's most-sought-after photographers, Testino re-created Lichfield's 1971 backseat wedding portrait of Mick and Bianca Jagger on their wedding day in St. Tropez, for Kate Moss and Jamie Hince's wedding in 2011.
In 2002 The National Portrait Gallery dedicated a retrospective to the first twenty years of his work, and now in a new exhibition at The Little Black Gallery in London, a lesser known side of Lichfield's archive is to be showcased for the very first time. From April 24 to May 26, 'Patrick Lichfield: Nudes' will feature images of models and actresses who disrobed in tasteful shoots such as the Unipart calendar series in the 80s; Miss World for Penthouse and Marsha Hunt, who posed naked in her giant afro after the opening night of the musical Hair - the image later appeared on the cover of British Vogue in 1969.
As Lichfield once told The Age newspaper in 1977, "Everyone thinks it's peculiar if you photograph nudes and royalty, but there is nothing wrong with it as long as you don't mix the two!".
For more info on the exhibition, head to www.thelittleblackgallery.com
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