Open: Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-5pm

49 Dorset Street, W1U 7NF, London, United Kingdom
Open: Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-5pm


Terence Donovan: Full Frame, Photographs & Paintings

ATLAS Gallery, London

Fri 24 May 2024 to Sat 7 Sep 2024

49 Dorset Street, W1U 7NF Terence Donovan: Full Frame, Photographs & Paintings

Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-5pm

Artist: Terence Donovan

Atlas Gallery presents Terence Donovan: Full Frame, Photographs & Paintings, the first solo exhibition of the Artist at the Gallery since commencing representation of the Archive in 2023. This exhibition is a celebration of Terence Donovan’s 40 year career, bringing together works from 1959 to 1995.


Terence Donovan
Terence Donovan
Terence Donovan
Terence Donovan
Terence Donovan
Terence Donovan
Terence Donovan

Terence Donovan came to prominence in London as part of a post-war renaissance in art, design and music, and represented a new force in fashion and, later, advertising and portrait photography. Showcasing some of his iconic 1960s photographs, his impeccable fashion and advertising images, as well as powerful photo-essays documenting life in London, personal projects and nudes, this exhibition reveals an unexpected range of work from one of the foremost photographers of his generation.

Exquisite and rare, signed life-time and vintage prints, unique 6x6cm contact prints and numbered silver gelatin estate prints are on display and available to collectors. A selection of rarely seen abstract black and white paintings inspired by Japanese calligraphy will be exhibited alongside his photographs for the first time.

Born into a working class family in East London, Donovan was fascinated by photography and printmaking from an early age. His professional photographic life started at the age of 11 with an apprenticeship at the London School of Photo-Engraving. He left at 15 to become a photographer’s assistant before opening his own studio in 1959 at the age of 22. He was immediately sought after by a range of clients, including leading advertising agencies and fashion and lifestyle magazines of the time, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle (France).

Part of a working class influx into the previously rarefied worlds of fashion, media and the arts, Donovan’s iconoclastic and sometimes irreverent photography established a new visual language rooted in the world he knew best – the streets of London’s East End. Taking his models to bomb-ravaged wastegrounds or balancing them off industrial building sites, his gritty and noir-ish style was more like reportage than fashion photography.

In the 1970s Donovan concentrated more specifically on advertising photography and moving image work but the late 1980s and early 1990s marked a return to stills photography, revisiting black and white film, his preferred medium during the early years of his career.

A selection of unique, vintage silver gelatin contact prints are also on display. These small photographs are made by laying the negative directly onto the surface of the light sensitive paper. Terence Donovan was known for meticulously reviewing his contact sheets, indicating his selected frames by piercing them with a pen or marking them with a chinagraph pencil. He discarded the contact prints of the frames he did not want used, keeping only those that he felt good enough to print or publish.

These small, original contact prints of single frames (some more than sixty years old) were kept with his negatives and remain in his archive. They tell the story of their history, bearing crop marks, printing instructions or layout comments. As well as being beautiful objects in their own right, they present an important insight into Terence Donovan’s working process and provide information about which shots he felt were most successful from the many hundreds of thousands of photographs he took.

Donovan was at the heart of a British fashion photography movement that exploded onto the scene in the 1960s. A unique set of nine vintage contact prints depicting fellow photographers and artists will also be on view. This exceptional series of nine prints captures major figures in British photographic history who were not only Donovan’s professional peers, but also close friends.

This group of nine will premiere on our booth (G15) at Photo London (15 - 19th May 2024).

Terence Donovan photographed many artists, models, singers and actors, from Jimi Hendrix, to Twiggy, to Cindy Crawford, to Stella Tennant. Gifted with an unerring eye for the iconic as well as the transformative, Donovan was a master of his craft, who pushed the limits of what was possible with a camera.

In 1960, Terence Donovan was commissioned by Tom Wolsey, the renowned Art Director of ‘Man About Town’ magazine (subsequently ‘About Town’ and then ‘Town’) to do a photo-essay on an artist’s co-operative in the then run-down area of Notting Hill: The Lay About Life. This influential photo-essay exemplifies a lesser known aspect of Donovan’s oeuvre, away from the glamour and bright lights of the world of high fashion. It demonstrates his particular visual sensitivity and ability to empathise and immerse himself in other people’s lives.

Despite his famously wide-ranging and diverse interests, Donovan’s passion for photography remained undiminished throughout his long career. Early in his career he told a young Jean Shrimpton:

‘Photography fascinates me. Instant fascination every time. When the fascination leaves me, I’ll give it up.’

In his later years, Donovan developed a love of painting and created vast abstract canvases, some of which are inspired by Japanese calligraphy. A selection are shown alongside his photographs at the Gallery.

Twiggy, 1966 © Terence Donovan Archive, Courtesy Terence Donovan Archive / Atlas Gallery

By using you agree to our use of cookies to enhance your experience. Close