crude, cutting and brutal photos
by an anticonformist photographer
by Silvia Messeri
About 130 pictures by the English photographer John Deakin will be on show at the Fratelli Alinari History of Photography Museum until March 31st. Most of them are telling and pitiless portraits of many of artists who used to frequent the London quarter of Soho between the 1950's and 60's; these black and white photos tell us about a man whose only dream was to paint and reach success through painting.
Born in Bebington in 1912, Deakin took up photography almost by chance when he was in Paris in 1939. He was so good at it that, after the war, which he spent as a sergeant in the British army's photographic and film unit, he managed to make his first contact with "Vogue" magazine which liked his work and hired him for the first time in 1947.
The essentiality and almost brutal reality of the portraits he carried out for the famous magazine were in stark contrast to the more refined work of his colleagues, though his brilliant work was not enough to save him for the disorder in his life. Incapable of working for days at a time when he was on a binder, careless about his photographic equipment that he often lost or perhaps pawned, Vogue sacked Deakin for the second and last time in 1954.
He really felt most at his ease in the environment of the pubs and clubs in the London quarter of Soho, a popular place among artists and free spirits whom Deakin captured in his beautiful black and white photos: Muriel Belcher, the proprietress of the Colony Room, Lucian Freud, George Dyer and painter Francis Bacon. The latter, who rarely worked from life, commissioned Deakin to carry out a series of portraits of friends that he later used for his paintings.
The photographs, all spotted with paint, that were found on the floor of Bacon's studio, provide an efficient synthesis of the history of this man, a photographer only by chance, who was obsessed by painting.
"John Deakin, photographs" Florence, Fratelli Alinari History ofPhotography Museum Hours: from 10 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. Open until 11.30 p.m. on Fridaysand Saturdays. Closed on Wednesdays.