Review: Terence Donovan: Speed of Light @ The Photographers’ Gallery


Rising to prominence during the swinging sixties Terence Donovan made a name for himself in fashion and portrait photography and advertising. The Photographers’ Gallery presents the first major retrospective of the photographer.

Donovan’s iconic shots and alacrity of sexualising fashion paved the way for a new approach to photography in the industry. Presented over two floors Speed of Light reviews the breadth of Donovan’s work during his career, from working in film and fashion to portraiture.

Perhaps Brain Duffy’s quote best summaries Donovan’s artistic mettle: “Before us fashion photographers were tall, thin and camp. We’re different. We’re short, fat and heterosexual.” Donovan, along with Brian Duffy and David Bailey – The Terrible Three – changed the way fashion was proffered to the masses.

The exhibition covers all aspects of Donovan’s career, including his work with Man About Town magazine, for which he shot twelve covers. Along with shooting for French Elle, Vogue, Tatler and more, Donovan also dipped his lens into film, producing Robert Palmer’s music video for Addicted to Love.

When shooting the series Thermodynamic Donovan remarked: “The only way you photographed men’s fashion was on a shooting stick in Regent’s Park, sitting there. So I thought, right, we’ll get on to this; we’ll go to the gasworks. You know — the obvious reaction to it.” Often placing his models in obscure or constructed sites, Donovan embraced the urban in his fashion photography.


During the seventies Donovan moved more into commercial. Before his death the photographer shot National Anthems for GQ Magazine — twenty-one portraits of music legends and stars. A particularly stunning shot on display is that of the young Suede frontman Brett Anderson.

With London Fashion Week fast approaching this exhibition is worth visiting. Terence Donovan’s influence on fashion and fame is discerning; without his enthusiasm for provocative images the pages of Vogue would be a little less sexy.

We gave it 3 / 5 mangos.

Terence Donovan: Speed of Light is showing at The Photographers’ Gallery until September 25, 2016.

For more details about the gallery see below:

The Photographers’ Gallery
16 – 18 Ramillies St
Telephone: 020 7087 9300

Gallery Opening Times:
Monday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm, Thur, 10am – 8pm (during exhibitions), Sun, 11am – 6pm

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