British photographic history

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Exhibition: Harry Hammond - Half Way to Paradise

Halfway to Paradise will explore the exceptional work of Harry Hammond, the music photographer who documented the emergence of Rock ‘n’ Roll music in post-war Britain. From Roy Orbison and Ella Fitzgerald to Cliff Richard and Shirley Bassey, the display will feature more than 60 portraits, behind the scenes and performance shots of leading musicians in the 1950s and 1960s.

The display will be drawn from the V&A’s collection and will provide an insight into the change in musical tastes over the two decades following the war. Hammond’s photographs will chronicle the jazz and big band musicians of the early 1950s such as Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday, American Rock ‘n’ Roll stars visiting Britain including Little Richard, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, through to the early breakthroughs of British rock such as the Animals and the Beatles in the 1960s.

Hammond also documented the development of music television in the 1950s and his behind the scenes coverage of the entertainment shows Sunday Night at the (London) Palladium, Oh Boy! and Juke Box Jury will be on show. The display will also be accompanied by a soundtrack of hit songs by the musicians featured in Hammond’s portraits.

Born in the East End of London, Harry Hammond began his career as a society portrait photographer and on joining the RAF during the Second World War, served as a reconnaissance photographer. On his return to London he resumed his interest in photographing people concentrating primarily on the music industry.

By the end of the 1940s, he was providing images for the music press, photographing recording sessions, live performances and capturing the energy of Denmark Street - the home of London’s music industry. In 1952, the music magazine New Musical Express (NME) launched and Hammond became one of its primary photographers, taking some of the most famous images of the era and setting the standard of pop photography for following generations.

• Halfway to Paradise: The Birth of British Rock, Photographs by Harry Hammond will be on display at the V&A in the Theatre & Performance Galleries, Room 104.


• Open from 13 October 2012 – 3 March 2013 

• The Museum is open daily 10:00 – 17:45 and until 22:00 every Friday

A book of the same title, Halfway to Paradise: The Birth of British Rock, by Alwyn W Turner will be re-launched in September 2012 by V&A Publishing (£20 hardback). 


Photo: Cliff Richard, 1954, Harry Hammond Archive

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