Norman Parkinson, notorious for portraits and fashion photography was born on 21st April 1913 in London. He went to Westminster School and started a career in photography in 1931 while doing an apprenticeship at Speaight and Sons Ltd. By 1934, he and Norman Kibblewhite opened their private studio in Piccadilly, London. Between 1935 and 1940, Parkinson worked for magazines like Bystander and Harper’s Bazaar. While World War II was still in progress, Parkinson did reconnaissance photography for Royal Air Force on France.
In 1947, he and Wenda Rogerson, a model and an actress were tied in a matrimony.
From 1945 until 1960, Parkinson was hired as a fashion and portrait photographer for the popular magazine, Vogue. Following this, for four years, he was the associate editor contributing in Queen magazine.
From 1964 till the time of his death, he did freelance photography. In 1981, in the New Year Honors, he was titled as the Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Norman Parkinson maintained himself as a craftsman rather than an artist. From the early time of his photographic career up till his death, he remained recognized and acknowledged for his work. His photographs revolutionized the British fashion world in the 1940s. He brought his subjects (models) from studio to a vibrant outdoor surroundings. He brought his model out from the rigid, artificially illuminated studio to a more casual, elegant and easy setting. This new approach was full of life. Parkinson described that he liked the way clothes lived, twirled, whirled and walked in. This could only be naturally possible in exterior shots. There is always a sense of something unexpected.
His photographs are absorbed with humor, that included him as well. Along with publishing his work in magazines, Parkinson produced illustrious calendars portraying young, alluring and glamorous women.
His most extraordinary portraits include that of Princess Annie (1971) and Queen Elizabeth (1980). A year later, he was presented the Royal Photographic Society award. The Progress Medal carried an Honorary Fellowship with it. Later on, Parkinson received the American Society of Magazine Photographers’ Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013, Google displayed a Doodle his honor.
During his photographic career in the fashion world, Norman Parkinson made some outstanding discoveries. In 1959, he revealed Celia Hammond, a model for Queen. In addition, he also spotted Uma Thurman‘s mother Neva von Schlebrügge, when she was 16 years old, in Stockholm. He brought her to do modeling for Vogue, in London. After he saw Jerry Halls photo taken by Parkinson, Bryan Ferry became interested in Hall to model for the cover of Siren, an album by Roxy Fifth.
In comparison, fashion photography can never benchmark the portraits of aristocrats, as The New York Times described Parkinson’s work. However, truth doesn’t always win over beauty. Parkinson had notably remarked that he liked making people look good as they wanted to, and if luck was with him than a little better than people’s expectations for them.
Photos by Parkinson were edgy, and a symbol of elegance depicting the true beauty of attractive women. The backdrop ranged from that from hills or studio to a setting in India. He shot in both monochrome and color. He had a perfect control over light and shadows, composition and direction, and style.