Bowie by Duffy at Proud Chelsea
Brian Duffy was one of the most influential and celebrated photographers of the 1960s and 70s and his work features some of the greatest names in music, fashion and cinema of the time. Even those who may not know his name will recognise his photographs of David Bowie, which have since gained a firm spot among the most iconic album covers of all time. From Aladdin Sane to Scary Monsters, Duffy’s work with the star of the many personae can now be seen alongside less-known snaps from their collaborations.
As well as commemorating the first anniversary of the artist’s death, the exhibition is made to coincide with what would have been Bowie’s 70th birthday. But while this presentation is a timely event, its content spreads a little thin. The timing of the show warrants a big celebration and thus sets up high expectations of a substantial body of work. The collaboration between the two creatives, however, consists of a handful of photoshoots. Hence, Bowie by Duffy has a rather narrow focus.
A small room holds the main pieces featuring the singer-songwriter and a selection of photographs by Duffy depicting other celebrities. Downstairs is another room with a mix of mainly black-and-white shots by other photographers, all celebrating musicians, actors and sportsmen from the same era. The images are nicely set up and seem to be grouped by mood rather than subject or author.
The Proud galleries are known for celebrating popular culture and music legends, and it is a pleasure to see the portraits of so many icons grouped together. After viewing the whole, however, it becomes clear that the Bowie focus is indeed narrow, and is somewhat diluted by the prominence of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles in the lower part of the gallery.
The event itself does not offer insights into the relationship between photographer and artist, apart from what is available visually. The publication Duffy / Bowie: Five Sessions acts as a companion book to the exhibition and is an essential read if one is to gain a deeper appreciation of the wildly imaginative work that the two creatives concocted together.
For fans craving a complete retrospective, Bowie by Duffy will seem like a taster that leaves one wanting more. The display does, however, boast some of the most memorable images that have come to represent the artist’s career, and it gives a feel of Duffy’s input into Bowie’s ever-evolving transformations. It is a great opportunity to see and purchase prints that are already classics, and that will likely gain more and more value with time.
Photos: Kimberley Archer
Bowie by Duffy is at Proud Chelsea from 6th January until 5th February 2017, for further information visit here.