John French

(1907—1966) photographer

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(1907–66), often overlooked in surveys of British fashion photography of the 1950s and 1960s in favour of his two famous one-time assistants, David Bailey and Terence Donovan. Yet this quintessentially English gentleman took fashion photography to a mass audience with the elegant, graphic images he published not only in fashion publications like Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and The Tatler, but also in newspapers. Recognizing Fleet Street editors' desire for contrasty pictures, but also aware of the aesthetic limitations of printing them on cheap newsprint, French saw that low-contrast, ‘high-key’ prints—where most of the detail was in the lighter areas—would reproduce best. To do this, he rejected popular direct tungsten lighting for softer daylight photography, bouncing light off reflector boards. Taking few of the photographs himself, French preferred to work closely with his models (including Pauline Stone and Jean Shrimpton), calmly instructing his assistants to make the exposures. In a career of nearly 10,000 sittings, French's participation in the Allied landing in Sicily during the Second World War was the only hiatus.

From The Oxford Companion to the Photograph in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.