Angus McBean

(1904—1990) photographer

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(1904–90), British stage photographer and Surrealist. Born in South Wales, McBean moved to London, and a job in antiques, in 1925. In the early 1930s he made theatrical masks and properties and also worked for a while in the studio of the society portraitist Hugh Cecil. In 1936 he was commissioned by Ivor Novello to make masks and take production photographs, and within a year he was specializing in theatre work, photographing the luminaries of the day. (His record of Vivien Leigh's career would extend over 30 years.) From 1937 he created a series of Surrealist portraits in bizarre studio sets: torsos emerged from landscapes and disembodied heads floated on lily pads. Such idiosyncrasy subsequently proved out of tune with the spirit of the war years, which also marked a hiatus in his theatrical work. During the late 1940s and 1950s, having resumed theatrical photography, McBean was in constant demand at Stratford, the Old Vic, and the major opera houses. He also photographed visiting stars of stage and screen, produced his own quirky Christmas cards, and created record covers, including the Beatles' Please Please Me (1963). Poor health and changing markets led to his semi-retirement from the mid-1970s.

From The Oxford Companion to the Photograph in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs.

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