Thursday, April 22, 2010

Depuis quarante ans

Caught a couple of interesting progs on telly a few nights back. Sunday I think. One was about how art schools influenced the '60s (pop, fashion, general revolution etc.) and the other was a documentary on Brian Duffy entitled 'The Man Who Shot The Sixties'. Having been an art student during most of this period ('63-'71), it was wonderful to be transported back in time and I enjoyed both progs immensely - particularly the one about Duffy.

Duffy was a top photographer back in the 'swinging sixties'. Up there with the likes of David Bailey and Terry Donovan. However, he gave it all up one morning in 1979 when he turned up at his studio and an assistant told him they'd run out of loo roll. Made him realise he'd become responsible for too many things - running a business, keeping clients happy, making compromises, buying loo rolls etc. - and that he just didn't enjoy it any more. So he famously went out to the back garden, burnt all his negatives and prints, and walked away from photography for good. Luckily someone rescued most of the negatives from the fire and stored them away. Duffy's son recently convinced Duffy (now well into his seventies and suffering from a lung disorder) to print up some of the best ones and arrange his first-ever exhibition. I gather it was a great success and I hope it inspired this wayward talent to get behind the camera again.

I met him once in 1970 when I was a graphic design student at the Royal College of Art. Set us a photographic project. Chuffed to bits 'cos he told me I had a good eye and should seriously think about swapping to photography. Far more exciting than boring old design and advertising. In the end I didn't swap but just for a moment I thought about it. Amazing what a compliment from an expert does for one's confidence. Been an enthusiastic snapper ever since.

Strange how a couple of telly progs about the '60s can spark long-forgotten memories. For example, the indoor greenhouse and goldfish pond on the top floor of the RCA building next to the Albert Hall. I used to occasionally pop in there for a bit of peace and quiet. Wonder if it's still there? And the massive Biba store in Kensington where I always felt ridiculously out of place (not because I had a problem about wandering around in a girly shop but simply because I am to fashion what Julian Clary is to rugby league). Friday night RCA discos that always ended with Albinoni at full blast. Being in the same group as Alan Rickman when he had this ridiculous notion of transferring to RADA and taking up acting. My knackered Honda 50 that would barely make it up Battersea Rise on the way back to my five quid a week bedsit. Spending ages trying to figure out the mechanics of bra-undoing, then discovering that girls weren't wearing the damned things any more. My mates' flat in the Old Brompton Road which became waterlogged when the upstairs pipes burst. The little Paris Pullman cinema...

Ah, the Paris Pullman! Used to go there with impressive frequency. Showed 'arty' films by Bunuel, Herzog and the like. One film in particular I well remember. Actually, I don't. Can't for the life of me remember the title or what it was about. But I do remember the startling image of a Ghandi-like figure smiling as he sat cross-legged and covered in honey while thousands of bees crawled all over him. Wierd. And I think it was there that I saw Antonioni's film 'Zabriskie Point', complete with its beautifully explosive ending and Pink Floyd soundtrack. Would have been in 1970. Same year I met Duffy. Interesting how Duffy and the girl in 'Zabriskie' had similar feelings about blowing up where they were at. Blow Up - now there's another great film from this period!

Sadly, the Paris Pullman was demolished years ago. Apparently replaced by a car showroom. Like so many things from the '60s, it's now just a distant memory.


  1. Read your post a couple of nights ago, but got caught up with the vid you posted, went onto YouTube to explore the film some more, and then onto the Internet to see what happened to the two young stars. Two hours later, and it was time for bed! Also brought up my memories of the '60's although that era was quite tame for me, too busy with growing up, getting married, having babies, etcetera, etcetara. I am actually finding my own sixties far more interesting, which is a good thing I think. Stops me from getting ancient in myself and in my thinking. Hope you are finding this time in your life just as interesting.

  2. Apologies for leading you astray! Must admit I rather enjoy looking back. But it's far more exciting to look forward. There's so much still to do. And yes, I do indeed find this early stage of evolving into a befuddled geriatric highly interesting.

  3. I agree with Vera as for finding my own 60's more interesting. But, I also like to remember the 60's everything was so new and bright.xx

  4. It all sounds very interesting and exciting. I was born in 62 so I missed it all.
    Somehow the 70's and punk wasn't as good and the 80's were worse.

    Sounds like you had a far better time of it.

    much love