Lifework: Norman Parkinson’s Century of Style at the National Theatre

Norman Parkinson_Lifework_1 Barbara Mullen shot in India by Norman Parkinson for Vogue, 1956

The National Theatre is marking the centenary of fashion photographer Norman Parkinson’s birth with a small but well formed exhibition, exploring all aspects of a diverse career that spanned seven decades. Parkinson is regarded as one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, remembered for taking fashion photography out of the confines of the studio and placing it on a far wider stage – the rest of the world. As Jerry Hall recounted to Nicola Roberts (director of BBC Four programme about the photographer’s life), “he had a sense of “big” – you know, big spaces – he would choose panoramic views and had a great sense of movement across the page…”

Parkinson favoured glamour almost as much as exoticism and was responsible for many iconic Vogue covers. However, the exhibition avoids an over-reliance on these, instead focusing on the photographer’s portraits (subjects varied from Dame Barbara Cartland to David Bowie, Princess Anne, Mick Jagger and Ava Gardener) and his less-familiar editorial efforts. These make up some of the strongest images – The Young Look in the Theatre, shot for Vogue in 1953, includes a collection of emerging actresses – including Natalie Wood set against the geometric confines of a gymnasium’s apparatus.

Norman Parkinson_Lifework_5Wenda Parkinson by Norman Parkinson for Vogue, 1951

Norman Parkinson The young Look in the Theatre The Young Look  in the Theatre by Norman Parkinson, 1953

Norman Parkinson_Lifework_7 Pamela Minchin by Norman Parkinson, 1939

Audrey Hepburn by Norman Parkinson, 1955Audrey Hepburn by Norman Parkinson, 1955

Norman Parkinson  Adele Collins by Norman Parkinson, 1959 

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