Norman Parkinson: Portraits in Fashion

Masters of Photography Series

“Any photographer who surrounds himself with a studio is doomed.” Norman Parkinson

Today we will take a look at the book Norman Parkinson:Portraits in Fashion. Parkinson is known for his long association with Vogue Magazine and his dramatic, bold and glamorous fashion and portraiture photography.

Born Ronald William Parkinson Smith in London, 1913, he died in 1990 whilst shooting for Town and Country magazine. He pioneered sexy and energetic fashion and portrait photography, injecting a casual and fun energy into his photography. Along with Vogue, he worked for Harper’s Bazaar, photographed the British Royal family, The Beatles, Grace Coddington, David Bowie, Twiggy, Iman, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall and many others.

Young Velvets, Young Prices, Hat Fashions

Norman Parkinson.Fashion models wear a variety of hats on the roof of the Condé Nast building on Lexington Avenue. The Chrysler and Empire State buildings in the background, US, October 15, 1949.
Fashion models wear a variety of elegant hats on the roof of the Condé Nast building on Lexington Avenue. The Chrysler and Empire State buildings in the background, US, October 15, 1949.

It goes along perfectly with another image from the same era. Elegance, grace and movement. He must have known Saul Leiter (USA, born 1923) who also shot for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. Leiter was to become famous for his photographs shot through shop and bar windows, not too dissimilar to this. This is his beautiful (third) wife, Wenda.

Norman Parkinson 1949. Model is wife, Wenda Parkinson.
Norman Parkinson 1949. Model is wife, Wenda Parkinson.

Wenda at Hyde Park Corner

Norman Parkinson 1951. Model is wife, Wenda Parkinson.
Norman Parkinson 1951. Model is wife, Wenda Parkinson.

ADELE COLLINS

I adore this following image of model Adele Collins. Based on a painting by Dutch-French painter, Kees van Dongen called The Corn Poppy from 1919. The stunning tapestry takes on a life of it’s own, instead of being a background. Like the original painting, it is an explosion of colour and shapes. Very abstract.

Norman Parkinson. Adele Collins photographed for Vogue magazine, 1959. Hat by London-based milliner, Otto Lucas.
Norman Parkinson. Adele Collins photographed for Vogue magazine, 1959. Hat by London-based milliner, Otto Lucas.
Kees van Dongen The Corn Poppy from 1919.
Kees van Dongen The Corn Poppy from 1919.
Norman Parkinson. Adele Collins photographed for Vogue magazine, 1959. Hat by London-based milliner, Otto Lucas.

Wenda and the Cow

Norman Parkinson. Wenda and the Cow. 1954
Norman Parkinson. Wenda and the Cow. 1954

This particular image I find incredibly fascinating as it seems to be built on rectangles. I love her cheeky expression too. In so much fashion photography now days, the models just look incredibly sad or despondent. She looks like she is in on the joke. This is Wenda Parkinson again, Norman’s wife.

Norman Parkinson. Wenda and the Cow. 1954

NEW York New York, East River Drive

The following image just screams New York. Whenever I see it I think of that song from the 1949 movie On the Town with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra “New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town!” Although they running home from their nine-to-five, they have so much energy. New York, New York!

Norman Parkinson’s “New York, New York: East River Drive,” 1959.

The running couple are Parkinson’s neighbors Robin Miller and Pippa Diggle. (They eventually married) I love the line of his hat is perfectly aligned with the skyscraper behind him. He is off the ground running too, which gives the image so much energy.

Nena von Schlebrugge

Although I hate furs, I do love this old-school elegance in the following image. Nena is cool, calm and look at that bracelet!

The model, Nena von Schlebrügge, was married to Robert Thurman and one of their children is Uma Thurman. She is a Mexican-born Swedish American psychotherapist and was discovered by Parkinson when she was in her teens. When you look at her you can clearly see Uma Thurman. They both also share the interest in Buddhism. She is now the managing director of a Buddhist centre-the Menla Mountain Retreat in the Catskill Mountains, New York.

Norman Parkinson, 1958. Model Nena von Schlebrügge.
Norman Parkinson, 1958. Model Nena von Schlebrügge.

NUDE

A bit more raunchy, with some lovely movement in the leg. Sexy without revealing much, her hair and that lounge are the highlight.

Norman Parkinson. First nude published in Vogue Beauty Book No. 5, 1951.
First nude published in Vogue Beauty Book No. 5, 1951.

BABY YOU CAN DRIVE MY CAR

More energy and movement with a model driving. Certainly he was an inspiration for future photographers like Ellen von Unwerth. It’s not called Baby You Can Drive My Car, but it could be! Beep beep yeah.

DONALD AND IVANA TRUMP

I had to include this rather bizarre photo of Donald and Ivana Trump here too. For a start, he is sitting on her lap-very emasculating for someone of ‘power’, and they look like they are sitting on a coffin, with the American flag coming out of his head. More flags rest on the ‘coffin’. It’s excess in the most gross of displays. All money and no class.

I can’t find any information on the image, but considering Parkinson was an educated, refined and elegant Englishman, I can imagine this is quite a dig at Trump.

Norman Parkinson. Donald and Ivana Trump. Trump Tower.

PORTUGAL

Back to elegance and style. Again, the ‘subject’ is out of focus, and a cat runs down a Portugues alleyway.

Norman Parkinson, Portugal. Vogue, January 1973.
Norman Parkinson, Portugal. Vogue, January 1973.
Norman Parkinson, The Art of Travel, Vogue 1951
Norman Parkinson, The Art of Travel, Vogue 1951

I could go on forever here. Norman Parkinson had a long and illustrious career spanning several decades. It is clear his passion for beauty, refined money, elegance and style comes across in every photo. Before Parkinson, models were stiff, frozen and awkward. He allowed his models to be themselves, to have fun, and move in front of the camera and to act the part. For that alone, he is considered a pioneer and one of the best photographers that ever lived.

Until next time, best wishes.

Don

Lonely Town: Twilight Suburbia Photography

More images on the themes of loneliness and fear. I had an uneasy childhood, growing up in darkest suburbia. Stalkers around toilet blocks, domestic violence, roaming gangs, street violence. An ongoing project is trying to capture this unease.

I grew up in a place called Gosford, most Sydneysiders know how drug-riddled, dangerous and just-damn-scary this place is. Inside my childhood home wasn’t that much better.

These were taken in the small town of Culburra, 3 hours south of Sydney. At times, I scared the hell out of myself walking around empty streets and dark car parks. Some shots were taken from my car, straight through the windscreen.

Hope you enjoy, or not.

Best wishes until next time.

Don

MISTY MORNING LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY

My partner and I woke early this morning to head one hour west of Sydney to rural Greendale. We take our dog, Bruce, out there every month or so for acupuncture. (No kidding)

Today I was in the passenger’s seat to capture some landscapes from the moving car, with my phone- A Samsung S7.

Love this phone, and bought it for the camera, even though I am an Applehead. A quick pass through Lightroom and I’m done. I made a preset just for this morning’s shoot and just applied it to all the images with just a little tweak here and there.

I still get surprised at the lovely quality of images coming from this phone/camera. Beautiful colours and lovely dynamic range. I do sometimes use the Lightroom app or the Pro settings that come with the Samsung, but I just find it a little fiddly, so I just shoot auto- especially when it is so early in the morning.

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.
Greendale, NSW Australia. 8:00am on a chilly, foggy morning. Samsung S7. Auto settings.

Until next time, best wishes.

Don

SAMMY-JOY GAJETZKI

SHOOTING BEAUTY PHOTOGRAPHY

Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with a young and aspiring model called Sammy-Joy Gajetzki. I found Sammy through Star-Now, a website dedicated to connecting models, photographers, actors and makeup artists.

Sammy came like this to the shoot- minimal makeup and a few pieces of clothing. She was such a natural, with a lovely raw beauty.

All photos here are taken in natural light, and shot everywhere from my lounge, to my studio to my bathroom. I did shoot with continuous and flash lighting, but selecting just twelve for this post, only the last one was chosen that used flash.

This is my third month of shooting portraits seriously, and I feel I am getting better, and finding myself happy with the results.

If you are in Sydney, and interested in having your portrait done, please drop me a line- I am always looking for sitters!

Best wishes until next time,

Don

self portrait: the reality of photographing a photographer

Oh boy! Self portrait time. I really needed to update my about page with a better portrait. The last one was a year old and really wasn’t that good. For a photographer, I take the worst selfies and even worse studio portraits. Maybe they are okay, but I always look so serious because I am concentrating to hard. So I asked my girlfriend to take some.

I still consider them self-portraits as I set the camera up, did the lighting, hair and styling and was clear about what I wanted. All she had to do was press the button. The button! The one on the top of the camera. No, the other one on top of the camera!

We finally succeeded in getting some good shots and having a laugh (after the shot, after buying her lunch, while having a drink, an hour later, after I praised her patience and told her I loved her photos).

Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“The button! The shutter button!”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“It’s called auto-focus!”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“Don’t tell me to smile.”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“Should have done it myself.”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“I can fix it in Photoshop, honest.”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“Last shot before I start crying.” (This was really the last shot of the session and my favourite)

Best wishes until next time,

Don

Moody Seascape Photography in Culburra Beach

Sometimes the weather just isn’t what you want it to be. Sometimes you just have to go with it. My partner, dog and I have been on holidays 3 hours south of Sydney. The weather has been blah: drizzling and overcoast. Time for some moody seascapes.

Neutral density filter, tripod and raincoat, I braved the wet to capture some coastal images of the little town of Culburra. Stay warm.

Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 1.3 sec @ f/22 ISO 100
Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 0.8 sec @ f/22 ISO 100
Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 0.4 sec @ f/22 ISO 100
Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 0.4 sec @ f/22 ISO 100
Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 0.8 sec @ f/22 ISO 100
Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 0.8 sec @ f/22 ISO 100
Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 0.5 sec @ f/22 ISO 100
Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 0.5 sec @ f/22 ISO 100
Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 0.8 sec @ f/22 ISO 100
Culburra Beach N.S.W Australia. Autumn 2019. Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and 2 stop neutral density filter. 0.8 sec @ f/22 ISO 100

Best wishes until next time,

Don