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Exhibition: Terence Donovan: Speed of Light / 15 July-25 September 2016

The Photographers’ Gallery, in partnership with global technology company Ricoh, presents a major UK retrospective of acclaimed British photographer, Terence Donovan (1936-1996). 

Terence Donovan was one of the foremost photographers of his generation, with a career spanning almost 40 years. He came to prominence in London as part of a post-war renaissance in the creative industries, representing a new force in fashion and, later, advertising and portrait photography. He operated at the heart of London’s swinging sixties, both as participant in and observer of the world he so brilliantly and incisively captured with his camera. Gifted with an unerring eye for the iconic as well as the transformative, Donovan was a master of his craft, a technical genius who pushed the limits of what was possible with a camera.

Presented over two floors, Speed of Light reflects the breadth of Donovan’s career and the originality of his work across different genres and mediums. Incorporating a compelling mix of vintage material and previously unpublished works, the exhibition will also include the ground-breaking films and videos he produced for musicians such as Robert Palmer and Malcolm McLaren. Guest curator Robin Muir with the assistance of Alex Anthony of the Terence Donovan Archive, have conceived an immersive installation that offers insight into the little-seen processes behind Donovan’s work.  This will include ephemera comprising early magazine spreads from Man About Town (later Town), contact sheets, cameras used by Donovan, studio notes and previously unseen sketches and diaries.

Speed of Light was an expression Donovan used frequently and democratically, for those who knew and worked with him the words became indelibly linked to the man himself.  It was a phrase deployed to energise and provoke; a figure of speech suggestive of transformation and progression. As a title for the exhibition, Speed of Light encompasses the myriad and dynamic facets of the man, the work, and the pace of the changes he oversaw and instigated.

Born in East London, Donovan was part of a working class influx into the previously rarefied worlds of fashion, media and the arts, Donovan’s iconoclastic and sometimes irreverent photography established a new visual language rooted in the world he knew best – the streets of London’s East End. Taking his models to bomb-ravaged wastegrounds or balancing them off industrial building sites, his gritty and noir-ish style resembled reportage rather than fashion photography. Donovan’s passion for photography remained undiminished throughout his long career, remarking to a young Jean Shrimpton in 1963: Photography fascinates me. Instant fascination every time. When the fascination leaves me, I’ll give it up.

Javier Diez-Aguirre, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Ricoh Europe, said: 
Ricoh is extremely proud to be working in partnership with The Photographers’ Gallery to celebrate the ground-breaking work of Terence Donovan through this major retrospective. As a global technology leader with a rich history in innovation, we pride ourselves on our use of imaginative thinking to drive positive change for the world we live and work in. Our involvement in this exhibition reflects a core belief in harnessing creativity and forms an integral part of our Ricoh imagine. change. Challenge programme, in which we challenge our employees and others to tap into their imaginative potential to inspire and drive change.
As part of the exhibition experience, Ricoh have enabled a dedicated space for audiences to explore some of the techniques and styles employed by Donovan and use them as a springboard for creating their own images.  The Ricoh imagine. change. studio offers visitors access to the latest Ricoh imaging equipment and will present a series of activities to encourage experimentation with fashion and portraiture and provide platforms for sharing and comment.

Image: Terence Donovan Terence Stamp, British Vogue, July 1967. Photographed on the set of John Schlesinger’s Far From the Madding Crowd. © The CondéNast Publications Ltd Courtesy of the Terence Donovan Archive

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