Terence Donovan: Portraits

Image of Terence Donovan: Portraits
Release Date: 
September 26, 2016
Reviewed by: 

Relationships, both personal and professional, provide every reader with a particular frame of reference as well as singular perspective that might set us apart from our fellow readers. Having read the foreword by Philippe Garner and taking note that the book was edited, or in this case curated, by the subject’s daughter left this reviewer feeling rather warm and fuzzy and somewhat sad.

Unquestionably neither of these reactions is what most would think to be expected or appropriate for a book of this genre but, Terence Donovan: Portraits is a love letter to a revered and respected legend of his profession, friend to many, and a beloved parent and husband. Reading the foreword is essential in order to gain the fullest appreciation of the book’s content as well as a brief biography of the man.

Back to perspective, Garner points out that the level of engagement between the lens man and his subjects was a key element to Donovan’s work, and that is extremely evident once you have been through the series of portraits. The relationships previously referred to gave notice that the majority of “sitters” stare directly into the camera, which is something that only comes when there is a rapport and trust between the two. Donovan no doubt cajoled and charmed his subjects to the point where the images are insightful, more natural/relaxed and offer a look into the souls of each of them. Most of the portraits do indeed conjure a thousand words.

If the prospective reader knows of the late Mr. Donovan, they will know that he was known as one of the “model makers.” His best buddies at the time were David Bailey and Brian Duffy, and they were the three hottest photographers of the swinging 60s in London. Bailey went on to be one of the most celebrated of the trio while the others never quite attained the same level of notoriety.

There is warmth surrounding Donovan’s work that sets him apart from his illustrious pals. It is that quality that brings an extra stimulation or emotion that is provoked when viewing his work.

The book is almost completely rendered in black and white, which surely creates a good deal of impact. Many of the subjects may not be very well known to the reader, but each one tells a story beyond just the photograph presented on a page. The images are total reality, or very close to it; they are not the overly retouched photo shopped images we have become accustomed to seeing. All of these qualities create a worthy book for the discerning eye.