Hamiltons Gallery’s show Modern Masters presents a selection of work by some of the greatest names in Modern and Contemporary photographic history, including Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Frank, Sir Don McCullin, Peter Beard, Hiro and Erwin Olaf.

One of the highlights is an iconic work of Sir Don McCullin. McCullin was born in 1935 in London’s Finsbury Park, one of London’s roughest areas at the time. Leaving school at fifteen with no qualifications, McCullin signed up to the RAF as a photographic assistant. In 1958, McCullin took his first published photograph of The Guvnors, a London gang who had been involved in the murder of a local policeman.

The image appeared in The Observer that same year, securing his contract with The Observer in 1961Initially based on projects in London, his work soon took him around the world, starting with the building of the Berlin Wall, 1961 and soon after the Cyprus War, 1964, marking the start of his career as a photographer of war and other human disasters.

Between 1966 and 1984, McCullin worked for The Sunday Times Magazinewhich was at the cutting edge of investigative, critical journalism, leading McCullin on assignments including Biafra, the Belgian Congo, the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’, Bangladesh and the Lebanese civil war. Sir Don was awarded a knighthood in the 2017 New Years Honours list.

Other examples of outstanding achievement in photography are Irving Penn as well as Robert Mapplethorpe. Penn was taught advertising design by the esteemed art director Alexey Brodovitch. While training for a career as an art director, Penn worked the last two summers for Harper’s Bazaarmagazine as an office boy and apprentice artist. At this time he had no thought of becoming a photographer.

In New York he won an audience with Alexander Liberman, art director of Voguemagazine, who hired Penn as his assistant, specifically to suggest photographic covers for Vogue. Using a borrowed camera, and drawing on his art background and experience, Penn arranged a still life which dazzled the tough-minded editor. It was published as the Voguecover for the issue of October 1, 1943 and launched Penn on his photographic career.

Mapplethorpe was part of a group of artists which became essential to the New York Art scene in the 1970’s and 80’s. Though he studied graphic arts, his acquisition of a Polaroid camera in 1970 changed his course forever. Only three years later, he purchased a medium-format camera and began photographing his circle of friends including other artists, socialites, and those in the New York underground community. His appreciation of the nude physical form challenged traditional models of the sensual and sensitive – instead focusing on the power and structure of male and female bodies.

Modern Masters
Hamiltons Gallery
Through 23 November 2018