Norman Parkinson was a British portrait and fashion photographer. Born in London in 1913, Parkinson began his artistic career at the age of 18 as an apprentice to the court photographers Speaight and Sons Ltd. His aptitude for photography was evident very early on in his career, and in 1934 Parkinson established his first studio in Piccadilly in London. The following year Parkinson began working for popular magazines Bystander and Harper’s Bazaar, beginning his enduring association with fashion photography. During the Second World War Parkinson offered his photographic talents to the Royal Air Force, in which he served as a reconnaissance photographer in France.
Following the War in 1945 Parkinson first began his long working relationship with the fashion publication Vogue. His approach to composition revolutionised the field of portrait and fashion photography in that rather than shoot models in a forced studio setting, Parkinson preferred to bring his subjects into a vibrant outdoor environment. In 1960 Parkinson became Associate Contributing Editor to ‘Queen’ magazine, but in 1964 made the decision to work as a freelance photographer for the rest of his career. Decade to decade, Parkinson’s work developed significantly with every major fashion era whilst continuing to capture light and movement in an elegant and distinctly individual style. From the monochrome elegance of his photographs in the 1940s to the bright glamour of the 1990s Parkinson was able to capture the spirit of each and every moment in photographs which, decades later, would be considered enduring, iconic and even legendary. The stark use of light and shade in his earlier work translated exceptionally well in to the development of colour photography and colourful fashions.
Though famed for his editorial photography the appeal of Parkinson’s work spread far beyond the pages of fashion magazines. He was an accomplished portrait photographer, and in 1971 Parkinson photographed Princess Anne, and later in 1980 photographed the Queen Mother. In 1981 Parkinson was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The artist died in 1990. His work remains in several collections including the National Portrait Gallery, London.