The Black Trinity. Part 2: Terence Donovan

Terence Donovan Self Portrait
Terence Donovan Self Portrait

Part 2 of our 'Black Trinity' photographers feature stars East End born Terence Donovan who, along with Duffy & Bailey, burst on to the swinging 60's scene to reinvent fashion photography.

Photo: Ronnie Woods by Terence DonovanRonnie Wood by Terence Donovan

Feeding his fascination for all things print, Donovan took a block-making course at the London School of Photo-Engraving but by 15 had discovered photography and began work as a photographers assistant for the famous fashion photographer, John French. French pioneered a new style of fashion photography using reflected light and low contrast which suited newsprint reproduction and was commissioned by all the major news and glossy titles of the time. He spent most of his time styling and posing the models, leaving the actual shutter triggering to his assistants - including Donovan and David Bailey - but not Brian Duffy, however, who failed to make the grade, working instead for Carlton Studios and Commercial Artists.

Photo: Actor Edward Fox by Terence DonovanActor Edward Fox by Terence Donovan

After a year with John French, Donovan set up his own studio at the age of 22 and was an instant success with work pouring in from Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, as well as the influential magazines of their day; Queen, Man About Town, Nova and leading advertising agencies. Said Donovan to fashion historian Martin Harrison in 1991:  "It was working for Town that really got me started and got me a name."

Photo: Sean Connery by Terence DonovanSean Connery by Terence Donovan

'Swinging London' was in full 'swing', and Donovan, along with the rest of the 'Black Trinity' (Duffy, Donovan, Bailey) were revolutionising print photography. Donovan shot mostly in black & white, taking his models out of the studio and into the post-war, bomb-ravaged waste grounds of his youth in a style more closely associated with documentary & street photography than traditional fashion work. 

Photo: Twiggy by Terence Donovan
Twiggy by Terence Donovan

In the 70's Donovan concentrated more on advertising photography and moving image and by the 80's was regularly shooting television commercials, ad campaigns and pop videos including Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love. 

Photo: Brian Ferry by Terence Donovan
Brian Ferry by Terence Donovan

Unlike Duffy, Donovan's love of photography was a constant throughout his long and varied career. "Photography fascinates me. Instant fascination every time. When the fascination leaves me, I’ll give it up.’ he said to a young Jean Shrimpton in 1963. It never did and he continued to work as a photographer until his death in 1996. 

In the 1990's the Royal Family - particularly  Diana, Princess of Wales - became frequent subjects of the many commissions he continued to generate.

Photo: Princess Diana by Terence Donovan
Diana, Princess of Wales by Terence Dononvan

Shortly before he died, he was appointed to Central St Martins School of Art  as a Visiting Professor, a position of which he was fiercely proud. 

View more Terence Donovan images on our 'Black Trinity' Pinterest board.

For more on the Black Trinity read about Brian Duffy and David Bailey on the 100 Prints Blog. 

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