Today's Memory

Today’s Memory

Today's Memory

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Today’s Memory

Norman Parkinson

April 21, 1913, London – 15 February, 1990


Ronald William Parkinson Smith was an English photographer and eccentric whose career saw fashion photography transform itself from decorative depiction of aristocratic ladies to a more commercial and democratic medium. After apprenticeship to the court photographers Speaight & Sons of Bond Street, he set up his own studio at the age of 21. Like Cecil Beaton, Parkinson was noted for taking his sitters out of the studio and encouraging them to move naturally, resulting in elegant portraits captured in contrastingly grimy or working-class environments. Sittings with contemporary figures including the Sitwells, Vaughan Williams, and Kathleen Ferrier for publications such as The Bystander, Life and Look led to a close relationship with Condé Nast from the 1940s to the late 1970s. Parkinson pioneered the outdoor use of colour photography with then difficult to source early 35 mm stock, which he used for landmark fashion imagery for American Vogue. Many of his most celebrated images, such as a satin-clad model reclining against a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (1950), featured his wife Wenda Rogerson.

In 1963, Parkinson moved from Twickenham to Tobago, where he set up a pig farm and marketed his famous Porkinson’s Bangers sausages. One of the first fashion photographers to enjoy personal celebrity, he was latterly known as the unofficial royal portraitist.

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