Thursday, 8 October 2009

A Walk in the Parks

It seems entirely appropriate that the new Norman Parkinson book (Norman Parkinson: A Very British Glamour, by Louise Baring) was launched last night in the elegant surroundings of Somerset House, because he and his work were so elegant and stylish – as well as being witty in a totally English way. Both the book (published by Rizzoli at £40) and the accompanying exhibition (on until January) are a must for fashionistas, lovers of photography, students and anyone wanting to discover how the Brits were in the thirties and forties.

His story then goes on as Parkinson became one of a handful of top international photographers working for all the top 'glossies' until the eighties. Tall and elegant as a crane, Parks (as he liked to be known) was a memorable figure who shot all the great models – although his best work came when he was photographing his wife, Wenda, who was the subject of my favourite Parkinson story. Shooting in Africa, she was sitting on an ostrich as he photographed her when it suddenly bolted. The bird thundered past Parks with Wenda clinging on for dear life. He called,'Fabulous, darling! Give me a little more profile!' as bird and model disappeared in a cloud of dust. He was an original not only as a photographer but also as a man – what other fashion photographer would rear pigs in Tobago and sell their sausages as Porkinsons – still on sale today?

Incidentally, Rizzoli are producing some very exciting fashion books this autumn. Martin Margiella - with a white silk cover but no guarantee of revelations of the who, what, where and why of fashion's most reclusive character; Nick Knight and SHOW studio; and one on Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton. Christmas lists surely start right here.