Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One/One-Thousand: John Deakin

Francis Bacon's oeuvre of nightmares in oil on raw canvas is currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show is extensive and full of interesting information about Bacon's process and life. Aparently he couldn't stand people to see him paint, even the subjects he asked to sit for portraits. So, he commissioned sometimes British Vogue photographer John Deakin to take photos of his desired subjects and put them in two dimensions for him to work from, in private.

A Bacon portrait of Muriel Belcher (l) based on a photo of Ms. Belcher by John Deakin (r).

It turns out that Deakin's work was phenomenally more than source material for Bacon's paintings. His portraits speak volumes about his subjects, and himself. He's famously quoted as saying, "Being fatally drawn to the human race, what I want to do when I photograph it is to make a revelation about it. So my sitters turn into my victims". As a sign of his true photographic talents, Deakin moved naturally between glamour shots of fashion for Vogue, portraits of his Soho drinking crowd for Bacon, and amazing street photography capturing the walls of Paris and denizens of European cities. His style is so easy to take for granted now, when everyone is toting a digital camera and snapping away in public, but he worked in the '50s and '60s, a time of film, when the shot was set in print with no "delete" button or flash settings to aid in perfecting it. His shots were composed, framed, and snapped with the absolute instincts of an artist. Here's a sample of his diverse portfolio:

A comprehensive portfolio of Deakin's photographs can be found on the site A Database.

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