holds a unique place among British photographers of
the 20th century. As doyenne of society portrait photographers
she photographed countless thousands of the good and
the great during the course of a professional career
which lasted no less than 61 years, from 1914 to 1975.
Breaking with the outmoded attitudes that had governed
the studios of her predecessors, she gradually developed
her own individual, more realistic style, seeking to
capture the essence of the sitter's personality, rather
than perpetuate the romanticized stereotypes of a bygone
age. From royalty and high society to soldiers in khaki
and depressed shipyard workers, her all-seeing eye found
something of interest to say about each one of them.
The same humanitarian principles which had moved her
to embrace the Suffragette cause while still in her
'teens later led her to explore in her work, through
dressing up and role playing, many aspects of women's
social and sexual roles, while issues of gender and
identity which she addressed all those years ago have
since found new expression in the work of Cindy Sherman,
Nan Goldin and Pierre & Gilles.
was not content, however, to confine herself to portraiture.
From 1925 onwards, she turned increasingly to commercial
work, especially magazine, fashion and advertising work,
where her highly developed compositional skills and
vivid imagination invested such mundane products as
ENO's Fruit Salts and Lanoline hand cream with more
than a touch of glamour and excitement. But even this
work did not provide sufficient outlets for her boundless
creative energy and in her more personal work - her
'still life phantasies', as she liked to call them -
she produced many original, mildly surreal, occasionally
thought-provoking but invariably fascinating images.
Some of these made their first appearance in her 1932
exhibition at the Albany gallery in London, a clear
indication that she was experimenting with this genre
long before exhibitions of Surrealist works by Man Ray
and Salvador Dali arrived in London.
it is as one of the world's foremost pioneers of colour
photography that Madame Yevonde will be remembered by
posterity. Between about 1930, when she first became
acquainted with the VIVEX tri-colour separation process,
and 1940, when the processing plant in London closed
down during the war, never to re-open, she worked closely
with the inventor and the laboratory technicians to
refine the process and extend its already highly sophisticated
capabilities. By 1932 she was sufficiently confident
of her mastery of the process to mount the first exhibition
of colour photography in England, which received a glowing
review in the British Journal of Photography. During
the few short years in which VIVEX was available to
her, her unique colour sense, allied with her outstanding
compositional skills and racing imagination, resulted
in a seemingly endless kaleidoscope of exquisitely beautiful
images, to which more than 3000 sets of colour negatives
in the Yevonde Portrait Archive bear ample testimony.
Foremost among these, the series of portraits of society
ladies dressed in classical costume, now universally
known as 'The Goddesses', marks the pinnacle of her
artistic achievement with the process, and will ensure
her a place in the history of fine art photography for
all time. Many of these images have that unique ability
to transcend all time, and having a distinctly 'modern'
feel to them, will continue to appeal to each new generation
of art lovers for as long as fine art photography is
hope that the ensuing pages of this web-site impart
a flavour of the work and achievements of this most
original, colourful and fascinating of all British photographers
of the last century and will generate a new international
audience far beyond the reaches of her native shores.