1976 was a very memorable year for me via a fantastic opportunity.
It started with a meeting at The Plough pub in Museum Street, London. Through a wispy haze of blue cigarette smoke sat the slender figure of Alan Aldridge, who was adding to the lingering smoke. He had contacted me to talk about the possibility of collaborating on a book together. He’d long moved on from his Penguin and Beatles period. At the time, he was having considerable success with his The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast books and was working on an animated film version. He had also designed the album cover for Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and was developing the idea for an animated version of that too, so he was a very busy bee – or should I say butterfly.
The book Alan had in mind was to celebrate the work of Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s lyricist. It was to be called The One Who Writes the Words for Elton John and would contain all of Taupin’s lyrics. These would be accompanied by individual illustrations to visually express each song. Alan had a list of people from the pop world that he was going to commission, from John Lennon to Ronnie Wood. Most of these were in black and white so, I opted to make the whole book monotone.
It was to be my task to select and commission from the world of illustration and photography, as well as design and art direct the book – no pressure there then. In the event, my collaboration with Alan was minimal: I only saw him twice before he disappeared to America. And so, I was left to my own devices. Much later l discovered that Alan was living it up in Barbados with Bernie Taupin on sex,drugs and rock n' roll under the guise of writing the script for the Captain Fantastic film.
Eventually, I pulled it all together thanks to the many illustrators and photographers who kept to the very tight deadline. The book was really a present from Dick James, Elton and Bernie's music publisher, and he made sure that it was sold out before publication by apparently buying the lot. So it was reprinted before publication.
Flicking through the book now, 40 years on, I am amazed at the talent involved. Here is a sampling ...
Cover illustration by Alan Aldridge and Harry Willock
One of the nice things about writing this blog is the chance encounter that occasionally pops up. In 2013, I wrote a short piece about the death of Tom Wolsey, the art director of the influential sixties British magazine Town.
Photographed by Bob Brooks 1927 – 2012
Serendipity intervened, and I had two connections with Wolsey coming from different worlds.
The long-time and award-winning advertising agency art director Dave Dye told me that he had made a bunch of scans from Town while hunting stories on 1960s photographers. He wanted to know if I would like some.
You bet I did.
And I share them with you here along with the names of a few of the astonishing photographers that were commissioned by Wolsey for Town.
Photographer Peter Knapp (1932 –) top spread, on the shoot for the 1966 Pirelli calendar which was designed and art directed by Colin Forbes while at Fletcher/Forbes/Gill
Photographs by William Klein (1928 - ) for an article on prisons.
Photographed by Brian Duffy 1933 – 2010
René Burri 1933 – 2014
Frank Horvat 1928 –
Art Kane (1925 –1995)
Photographed by Brian Duffy 1933 – 2010
Then, unexpectedly, David Wills, who turned out to be an assistant of Wolsey’s at Town magazine in 1963/4, contacted me.
Photograph by Saul Leiter 1923 -2013
So, this post compliments that 2013 post, Tom Wolsey: My Kind of Town. Link at the foot of this post.
I asked David Wills to give me a feel of what it was like working for Tom Wolsey and on the magazine itself back in those heady days of ‘swinging London’…
“I very much agree with your summation of his talents; his visual puns and graphic ideas were put into practice with his wonderful sense of space. It was an honour and an education working with him. I think a lot of his ideas were formed from studying with Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956, the German-American expressionist painter) in Chicago.
But I doubt he’d be a very convivial ad agency pro, even though he had plenty of experience – he was not the most accommodating person and would have been loath to bend or compromise his considerable and strong opinions, which would have been defended with gusto verging on violence. (Ed: Wolsey moved toNew York in 1972, where he worked for advertising agencies Ogilvy, Scali and Ally & Gargano winning many awards).
As for working with him, he was a man of few words and great vehemence in demanding that his instructions were to be carried out exactly as ordered.
‘You vill do as I say!’ was yelled in his strong German-accented English, which Peter Sellers used as the model for Dr Strangelove. He scared me straight.
His small studio next to mine in the bland offices near Marble Arch was orderly and decorated with a big letter T in a roman face.
I think he may have had a girlfriend, but no one ever saw her. He was not a very likeable person.
Wolsey’s right-hand man, the production manager DLC (Dennis Curtis), was the intermediary between Tom and I, so much of my interaction was with DLC – who was even more unpleasant...
Mostly, my job was to translate Tom’s rough layouts into printers’ instructions, drawing the pages in detail, fitting the text and masking the photographs, which for the black and white was done in the most barbaric fashion considering the value now of the prints – the area to be reproduced was indicated by gluing paper masks with rubber cement directly on the prints. The area to be filled with the black and white was indicated on the layouts as a drawing that I’d trace in the Lucie (Studio Camera Lucida).
The colour transparencies were enlarged on the Lucie as drawings, and black and white prints were made at the process house to size and masked in situ on the layouts.
Town had at the time the only font of Helvetica in the country – specially ordered from Haas in 72pt. So any headline had to be cut up, letter spaced, close not touching with kerning, then photographed to size at the process house, with the repro print marked up for reproduction. (Oddly, I think the movie, which I have not seen, featuring the typeface Helvetica made no mention of Tom’s considerable – indeed singular – contribution to the popularity of the face.)
Because Town was printed letterpress on a machine that printed 16 pages at a time, we would proof each sheet, with me marking corrections (especially any rule borders that did not join precisely at the corners).
Tom and DLC would correct the colour. Since it was letterpress, each colour would have its own zinc plate nailed on type-high wood, so it was a considerable expense to make any adjustments! Black was printed last while the underlying inks were still wet to achieve the rich colour that made Town’s colour reproduction so vibrant and rich.
Front and inside cover of this Christmas edition of Town featuring Len Deighton, cookery writer and illustrator turned novelist (The Ipcress File had just been made into a successful film) here with Pattie Boyd (Later to become George Harrison's wife )
One time singer (now actor) Mike Sarne famous for his 1962 hit Come Outside, seen here decked out in a £35 guineas grey flannel braided blazer suit from the Carnaby Street's sartorial go to John Michael.
Tom had quite an influence on the men’s fashion aesthetic, and I once heard him say that he was personally responsible for the popularity of striped shirts in the 60s.
I'm sure there is a whole lot more to say, but that's what I got right now "
Thank you, David. A fascinating insight into another time and place. And if he recalls more on his days at Town, you’ll see it here.
During Dave Dye's reserch he found this letter to Tom Wolsey inside a copy of Town.
And a big thank you to Dave Dye for supplying the wonderful images. Dave has a terrific resource blog on 20th-century advertising greats. take a look here.
Many reading this may never have heard of Tony Evans. Indeed, there is virtually no mention of him on the Internet. He was a photographer of supreme talent and fastidiousness in his work. In his time, he won 11 silver D&AD awards and one gold.
In an age long before digital technology, he produced miracles in camera. He was also the man that designers and art directors felt comfortable with because we (and I include myself) knew that he would deliver beyond our expectations.
This photograph of David Hockney, taken in 1963, was Tony's first published picture. What a great start.
One of Tony’s great design collaborators was John Gorham, the late and great craft-based but always conceptually brilliant graphic designer. The pairing was a match made in heaven. Both dedicated to perfection, both eccentric and both with a love of nature.
This is an example of their collaboration. The film poster for Red Monarch (1983) was designed by John Gorham in collaboration with Howard Brown (another very special graphic talent). The strong simple idea was elevated to a great idea with Tony’s fanatical attention to the tomato’s beautiful splat. It was lovingly applied and manipulated into being by Tony using a glass ear-dropper.
For this beautiful shot for Nova magazine, art directed by David Hillman in 1971, Tony contrived this bunch of onions contained in a specially made onion-shaped glass with a plugged opening at the back, into which he lovingly arranged the onions, which he had carefully prepared to perfection. The result is stunning.
Two years earlier and for the same publication (Nova), he had this witty gas ring made to accompany an article entitled Affectionate Suppers for Two by Caroline Conran.
For the cover of Epitaph for the Elm (1984), about the demise of the English elm – which had been decimated by Dutch elm disease – Tony’s solution was this graceful silhouette of a dying elm against the night sky.
Royal Mail Christmas stamps 1992. Photographed by Tony Evans designed by Carroll, Dempsey & Thirkell
Iain Crockart, now a successful photographer, was a designer back in the early days at my old company Carroll, Dempsey Thirkell. While with us Iain recalls working on a Christmas set of stamps for Royal Mail with Tony Evans.
“They featured the stained glass windows of Karl Parsons, the shoot meant having scaffolding and lighting rigged up just inches away from these glass masterpieces in churches in the south of England, Tony was such a gentle, careful and precise man that there was never any danger of a calamity. He gave me a signed copy of his book, The English Sunrise, a book without words, it is a visual collection of the sun motif in architecture, doors, windows, gates, tea cosies, signage, handbags etc, etc... it is a treasured possession.”
The English Sunrise earned Tony Evans and designer David Hillman a D&AD Gold Award in 1973
Later in his career, Tony became increasingly interested in ecology, books and stamps. My old business partner Nicholas Thirkell worked with him on The Illustrated Lark Rise to Candleford.
Goldfish for Michael Wolff 1985
Michael Wolff, a close friend of Tony's, had him photograph a goldfish as a symbol for his design consultancy. Michael recalls that he and Tony spent a lot of time selecting just the right goldfish. Having got the star of the picture everything else had to be perfect. A super-purity glass tank which took four weeks to make. Then a special filter to keep the water crystal clear to match the glass. On the shoot day, the goldfish looked poorly and lacking in personality. After several hours, the shoot was abandoned leaving Michael feeling very disappointed. Tony went back home to Wales where he revived the spirits of the depressed looking goldfish and a little later Michael received a shot that was beyond his expectations.
RSPCA stamps for Royal Mail 1990.
There were also a number of stamp sets for Royal Mail. Another of my old colleagues, writer Tim Shackleton, who worked with Tony a lot, said of him:
“I liked his outward calm, the feeling of someone going through well-tried routines. Heaven knows what was actually going on in his mind, but the work, at least, one senses the concern for simplicity and orderliness, had an almost monastic avoidance of the unnecessary.”
I think that sums up Tony Evans perfectly – he was always looking for perfection in simplicity.
Back in the mid-1970s, I commissioned him to produce covers for Richard Maybe’s Food for Free and Plants with a Purpose, both about foraging for goodies in the countryside around us.
There was no cheating for Tony – everything that appeared on that cover was genuinely foraged. I remember him always only presenting me with one carefully selected 35mm Kodachrome transparency. It was, of course, perfect. He went on to collaborate with Richard Maybe as co-author of The Flowering of Britain. It was always satisfying to initiate these connections.
Another set of Royal Mail stamps he produced on the topic of studio pottery involved him not only photographing the pots but also the potters themselves, which he achieved with great sensitivity.
Studio Pottery (1987) stamp issue by Tony, with the beautiful presentation pack designed by John Gorham
He was the first person I ever knew to recycle envelopes. He had a little rubber stamp made that said ‘Save trees and reuse this envelope’, at the time when all other photographers would always deliver their work or invoices in immaculate envelopes or boxes.
There is a whole other story to be told about Tony's creative contribution to the world of advertising, but that is for others to tell.
Sadly, Tony Evans died in 1992 after a long illness. He was a one-off, and there are too few of those around these days.
Jeanloup Sieff is one of my all time favorite photographers, as any reader of this blog will know. I have always loved this beautiful, tantalising image with Sieff’s consummate lighting and obsessional love of fingers.
In 1997 when I was President of D&AD I
had the great pleasure of putting together a series of President’s Lectures.
This gave me the opportunity of approaching some of my all time favorite
creative talents. Jean Loup Sieff was one such supreme talent. I have always
loved the beauty and delicacy of his photographs. The use of wide-angle lenses,
exquisitely soft, creamy lighting and wonderful compositions create images of
pure serenity, especially his nudes.
Torsi is a great example of his craft in which
the majority of the people photographed were not professional models. He used a
simple lighting set up and the minimum of props. He also had a passion for
hands and their arrangement…
London based photographer
Jillian Edelstein is embarking on a rather fun project to dovetail with the
introduction of the new Sony Ericsson Satio mobile. Sony have commissioned her
to use the Satio’s in- built camera to photograph eyes. But it's not the usual
run of celebrities that Edelstein is used to snapping…
No not them, as lovely as they are. This time it’s the likes of you
and me. She will be photographing 112 eyes in 12.1 hours at Sony Ericsson’s
London store. So if you would like your eye featured as part of this very
special project all you have to do is apply online here. The project will take
place the first week in December. Sony Ericsson will be streaming the results
live on their website. So if you are not lucky enough to be selected keep
looking in to see what Jillian will make of it. And to see more of her work