Vivat! Vivat! My England!

The Royal College of Art has put together a retrospective of the work of the late John Hedgecoe, one of Britain’s leading post-war portrait photographers.

Henry Moore, 1967
Henry Moore, 1967

Hedgecoe, who was born in 1937 and died in 2010, captured portraits of the likes of artist Francis Bacon, fashion designer Mary Quant, poet Ted Hughes, and The Queen.

Hedgecoe’s career began at Queen magazine, which he joined as staff photographer in 1957, under the editorship of Jocelyn Stevens.

He also has a long history with the RCA, which he attended as a student and during this time photographed sculptor Henry Moore.

Kay Lockwood, Animal Benefactor, 1993
Kay Lockwood, Animal Benefactor, 1993

Hedgecoe later founded the Photography Department at the college and was photography professor from 1975-1994, during which time he also becmae a best selling photography author. 

The Vivat! Vivat! My England! exhibition focuses on 34 of his most iconic photos some of which will be exhibited for the first time.

Jenny Hedgecoe, John’s surviving wife, co-curated the show with the artist Basil Alkazzi.

Margaret Thatcher, 1999
Margaret Thatcher, 1999

She says, ‘John always had a special place in his heart for the Royal College of Art. He ensured that the students would benefit from this profound connection by establishing the John Hedgecoe Scholarship. It’s therefore deeply impactful that all proceeds from the sale of work from Vivat! Vivat! My England! will go towards the scholarship fund.’

Hedgecoes connection with England has been highlighted by Alkazzi who has written a series of essays to accompany the exhibition.

Queen Elizabeth II, 1966
Queen Elizabeth II, 1966

Alkazzi says, ‘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 effected energy of the sitter, be it the Queen, Margaret Thatcher, John Gielgud, or any of the many creative people he photographed.’

Sir John Gielgud, 1959
Sir John Gielgud, 1959

Vivat! Vivat! My England! Photographs by John Hedgecoe (1937-2010) runs from 17 July – 5 August at Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU

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