15th Sep 2018
Born 1936 in East London, Terence Donovan developed an interest in photography from an early age and came to prominence in London in the 1960s. With the energy of his fashion photographs and portraits, and his bright personality, Donovan was perceived as a new force in British photography.
Donovan’s way of shooting photographs was simple, spontaneous, informal and relaxed, in contrast to the era’s dominant modes of portraiture and fashion photography. As Philippe Garner says, “The simpler his pictures the better. All hinges on the magic ingredient that underpins their enduring interest. This has less to do with setting, styling, or technical skill… and everything to do with human chemistry.”
In 1967, Donovan photographed the actor Terence Stamp on set of John Schlesinger’s film production of Far From the Madding Crowd, originally written by Thomas Hardy in 1874. Then at the age of 29, Stamp played the protagonist Frank Troy in the film, which was mainly shot in Dorset and Wiltshire. A close-up of Stamp’s face looking directly towards the camera lens, lit dramatically with dark shadows in the background, the powerfully simple black and white photograph by Donovan was published in British Vogue in July, 1967. The intimate photograph was widely popular with the magazine’s readers, and swiftly became an iconic image of the era, aiding the box office success of the film in the UK, as well as Stamp’s fame.
Along with his success as a magazine and fashion photographer, Donovan had a parallel career as a documentary filmmaker, nude and landscape photographer. In all instances, he retained his unique, simple approach to photography, and his direct connection to his subjects. Donovan was at work until he died in November 1996. The Royal Family, and in particular Diana, Princess of Wales formed part of the many commissions which he continued to undertake up until his death.