a quirky look at London Life

Photography Exhibition Choice: John Hedgecoe Comes ‘Home’ in RCA Exhibition


“VIVAT! VIVAT! MY ENGLAND!, which opens at the Royal College of Art on 17 July, presents a selection of 34 of John Hedgecoe’s most iconic photographs, curated by Basil Alkazzi and Jenny Hedgecoe, some of which will be exhibited for the first time.


Among Britain’s leading post-war portrait photographers, Hedgecoe (1937–2010) captured many of the twentieth-century’s leading cultural icons – from Francis Bacon, Mary Quant and Ted Hughes to Agatha Christie, Vita Sackville West and David Hockney. And of course, Her Majesty the Queen.


Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey commented, ‘John’s most important photographic legacy is his portraits; the empathy he was able to create with the sitter… Two of John’s subjects stand out from all others. One is the Queen, whom he photographed for the Royal Mail to create the image that is on every postage stamp, making it the most reproduced photographic portrait ever taken. The other is the sculptor Henry Moore whom he met when he was a student. They became good friends and the closeness between them gives an extra dimension of him to John’s photographs.’


Hedgecoe first photographed Henry Moore as a student at the RCA in 1953. In 1957 Hedgecoe joined Queen magazine as staff photographer, under the editorship of future RCA Rector Jocelyn Stevens. In 1965 he founded the Photography Department at the Royal College of Art, and was an inspiring Professor of Photography and then Pro-Rector from 1975–1994.


John’s widow, Jenny, remembers, ‘One of the many amazing things about John was his diversity. I always used to think that he made everyone else look as though they were tiptoeing through life. Not him! ’


Hedgecoe’s love for the College inspired him to establish the John Hedgecoe Scholarship at the Royal College of Art. All prints in the exhibition will be for sale with proceeds going towards enlarging this magnanimous gift for future Photography students.


Artist Basil Alkazzi, a close friend of John’s and co-curator of the exhibition commented:  ‘Looking through his photographs I was touched by his love for England and all things English. I observed his use of light and his play with shadows; the shape of a hand or hands and parts of bodies are mirrored to roots and barks of a tree…His great love was of course, people, and the response to his warmth as a photographer reveals the less affected energy of the sitter, be it the Queen, Margaret Thatcher, John Gielgud, or any of the many creative people he photographed.’ 


Rector of the Royal College of Art, Dr Paul Thompson said: ‘It’s truly wonderful that so many of John’s best-known works are ‘coming home’… to see these photographs gathered together under the RCA’s roof will serve as a timely reminder as to the sheer expertise of the man.’ 


VIVAT! VIVAT! MY ENGLAND is on show in the Upper Gulbenkian Gallery, Royal College of Art, London, 17 July – 5 August 2014″



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