Clive Arrowsmith’s Penelope Tree at Holden Luntz Gallery
Clive Arrowsmith, Penelope Tree, 1971, Printed 2017, Archival Pigment Photograph
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT HOLDEN LUNTZ GALLERY, ON September 26, 2017. READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE.
Clive Arrowsmith created a photographic oeuvre that chronicled a significant period of fashion and music that existed throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. He studied painting at Queensferry Art School and later received a scholarship to study at the Kingston College of Art. Clive found it hard to make a living as a painter, therefore he began working as an art director on the iconic London Weekend Television music show “Ready, Steady, Go.” It was there that he took an interest in photography as he began to take pictures behind the scenes of legendary 60s pop stars.
Clive Arrowsmith found fame at the height of Beatlemania. He used a Hasselblad camera to document fashion, music, and style because he loved the quality of the print he could produce from a 2 ¼ in square negative. Clive taught himself the photographic printing process through trial and error, and his goal has always been to first achieve the perfect photo through in camera editing. Everything from the lighting to the angle to the composition of the image was decided before the exposure was made. His earliest job in fashion was to photograph the Royal College of Art fashion shows. With a new found love for the art of fashion photography, Clive ultimately shot for famed magazines across London such as Nova in the 60s, Harper’s and Queens, and British Vogue in the 1970s. Clive remained at British Vogue for years, encouraging models to jump, dance, and be free with their movements as he followed in tow with his camera. He believed this “created an exciting and fresh look that was perfectly in tune with the times.”
Penelope Tree, a prominent fashion model in London’s swinging 60’s, was first photographed by Diane Arbus when she was thirteen years old. In 1966, she attended the Black and White Ball thrown by author Truman Capote and attracted the attention of Cecil Beaton and Richard Avedon who worked together to make her a supermodel. Clive Arrowsmith photographed Penelope Tree in 1971 and portrayed her just as her name describes: as a tree. The image focuses on the model’s neck and face, as they are the only parts of her body visible within the frame. Her eyes gaze directly into the camera with a subtle intensity as her face and hair grow tall into a tree like form, with a bird’s nest perched atop the “leaves.” The picture is striking due to its unconventional composition, yet it reflects Penelope Tree’s unparalleled beauty with a photographer’s intuition. Penelope, describing her time spent photographing with Clive has stated that he has “crazy wisdom as a photographer,” and that his work “reflects humour, insight, and a big heart.” This image became one of Penelope Tree’s favorite photographs taken of her.
Clive Arrowsmith believes “style is engrained in your visual literacy” and that a photographer’s use of color, light and shadow is always unique. With a definitive style, sometimes quirky, sometimes classic, but always original, Clive Arrowsmith creates photographs that have transformed fashion and pop culture. His images of models and celebrities are globally admired, and he has solidified his place in contemporary photography.