PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005)

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HM THE QUEEN ON BOARD HMY BRITANNIA, THE EQUATOR, INDIAN OCEAN, MARCH 1972 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HM THE QUEEN ON BOARD HMY BRITANNIA, THE EQUATOR, INDIAN OCEAN, MARCH 1972

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THE GRANDCHILDREN OF THE 10TH DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH, BLENHEIM PALACE, 
OXFORDSHIRE, 26TH APRIL 1964 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

THE GRANDCHILDREN OF THE 10TH DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH, BLENHEIM PALACE, OXFORDSHIRE, 26TH APRIL 1964

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GRACE CODDINGTON WITH DACHSHUND, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, 18TH MARCH 1964 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

GRACE CODDINGTON WITH DACHSHUND, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, 18TH MARCH 1964

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THE STARTER, GOLD CUP DAY, ROYAL ASCOT, 21ST JUNE, 1973 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

THE STARTER, GOLD CUP DAY, ROYAL ASCOT, 21ST JUNE, 1973

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PAUL AND TALITHA GETTY, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO, JANUARY 1969 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PAUL AND TALITHA GETTY, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO, JANUARY 1969

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MICK AND BIANCA JAGGER AFTER THEIR WEDDING, ST TROPEZ, FRANCE, 12 MAY 1971 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

MICK AND BIANCA JAGGER AFTER THEIR WEDDING, ST TROPEZ, FRANCE, 12 MAY 1971

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LADIES AT THE SCHREIBER DANCE, LONDON, 24TH JUNE 1964 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

LADIES AT THE SCHREIBER DANCE, LONDON, 24TH JUNE 1964

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ELIZABETH TAYLOR PHOTOGRAPHING, KENT, 15TH JUNE 1968 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

ELIZABETH TAYLOR PHOTOGRAPHING, KENT, 15TH JUNE 1968

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JILL KENNINGTON WITH A LOTUS FORMULA ONE RACING CAR, 
EATON MEWS NORTH, LONDON, 15TH SEPTEMBER 1964 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

JILL KENNINGTON WITH A LOTUS FORMULA ONE RACING CAR, EATON MEWS NORTH, LONDON, 15TH SEPTEMBER 1964

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DRINKS, BLENHEIM PALACE, OXFORDSHIRE, JULY, 1964 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

DRINKS, BLENHEIM PALACE, OXFORDSHIRE, JULY, 1964

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GRAHAM HILL, MONACO GRAND PRIX, 26TH MAY, 1963 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

GRAHAM HILL, MONACO GRAND PRIX, 26TH MAY, 1963

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JIM CLARKE DURING THE MONACO GRAND PRIX, 10TH MAY 1964 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

JIM CLARKE DURING THE MONACO GRAND PRIX, 10TH MAY 1964

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ROLLS ROYCE ON TANCARVILLE BRIDGE, FRANCE, 10TH MARCH, 1969 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

ROLLS ROYCE ON TANCARVILLE BRIDGE, FRANCE, 10TH MARCH, 1969

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ZSA ZSA GABOR AND RENE OF MAYFAIR, LONDON, 11TH MAY 1965 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

ZSA ZSA GABOR AND RENE OF MAYFAIR, LONDON, 11TH MAY 1965

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THE HON NICHOLAS AND LADY MIRANDA BEATTY, CHICHELEY HALL, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, 23RD JUNE 1966 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

THE HON NICHOLAS AND LADY MIRANDA BEATTY, CHICHELEY HALL, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, 23RD JUNE 1966

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HM THE QUEEN AND HRH THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH DANCING AN EIGHTSOME 
REEL AT THE GHILLIE'S BALL, BALMORAL CASTLE, SEPTEMBER, 1971 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HM THE QUEEN AND HRH THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH DANCING AN EIGHTSOME REEL AT THE GHILLIE'S BALL, BALMORAL CASTLE, SEPTEMBER, 1971

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RICHARD BURTON AND ELIZABETH TAYLOR ON BOARD ODYSSEIA, 
SOUTH OF FRANCE, 14TH MAY 1967 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

RICHARD BURTON AND ELIZABETH TAYLOR ON BOARD ODYSSEIA, SOUTH OF FRANCE, 14TH MAY 1967

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STIRLING MOSS AND JAUN MANUEL FANGIO, MONACO, 23RD MAY, 1971 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

STIRLING MOSS AND JAUN MANUEL FANGIO, MONACO, 23RD MAY, 1971

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JACQUELINE BISSET, WILTON PLACE, LONDON, 1ST  MAY 1964 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

JACQUELINE BISSET, WILTON PLACE, LONDON, 1ST MAY 1964

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MICK JAGGER, OPIO, FRANCE, 8TH MAY, 1971 by PATRICK LICHFIELD (1939-2005) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

MICK JAGGER, OPIO, FRANCE, 8TH MAY, 1971

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In 1962, the 5th Earl of Lichfield left the Grenadier Guards and became a photographer, a move in keeping with the fast changing social fabric of Britain in the 1960s. Although he did not know it at the time, in sidestepping family tradition, Lichfield picked up on the zeitgeist. As a statement it defied class boundaries, and coupled artistic ambition with familial disobedience, all three of which were to become major themes in the youth of his generation. As one of his relatives described his decision: Far worse than being an interior decorator; only marginally better than hairdressing .

For a cousin of the Queen to earn a living as a photographer was unprecedented, but it was hardly a profession of the masses. Since its invention photography had long been a pursuit of the upper classes Julia Margaret Cameron, Fox Talbot, Lartigue, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, and Cecil Beaton had all been from highly privileged backgrounds. However, Lichfield's career change coincided with an apparent shift in the opposite direction. Working class photographers such as Terence Donovan, David Bailey, Don McCullin and Brian Duffy stormed the fashion magazines and editorial press, sweeping away any snobbery associated with the profession. Lichfield remained intensely proud of both his family and title, but smelled the change in the air. His decision to become known simply as Patrick Lichfield was a deliberate attempt to distance himself professionally from the establishment, thereby identifying himself more with the burgeoning cultural meritocracy.

It is undoubtedly true that many of the great cultural triumphs of the 1960s were achieved by members of this new, mostly working-class, pool of talent so venerated by the popular press. However, it is equally true that underneath a thickening veneer of classlessness, the traditional establishment continued to hold sway over most of British life, as it always had done. In reality, being the 6th Earl of Lichfield was extremely useful to a budding photographer, in that it still opened many doors that would be shut to his competition. Patrick Lichfield certainly used this to his advantage in the early years, as his social connections led to commissions to photograph his own set both formally and at play. Indeed his clippings books from the period show numerous London papers proud to print photographs by the glamorous photographer peer. However, over the decade, Lichfield's triumph was to reduce his title to a convenient adjunct, as his exciting and innovative photography won over editors at the world's top publications and the byline Patrick Lichfield began to speak for itself.

Throughout Lichfield's early life, his love of photography represented an escape from both tedium and responsibility. Unacademic and a self-confessed scamp, he was one of the lucky few at Harrow School to have a camera. This enabled Lichfield to find an identity in that competitive environment, and to excel at something he spent all his spare money on additional equipment, and devoted himself to covering sporting and theatrical events. An early entrepreneurial streak was evident too, as he spotted the opportunity to undercut the town's portrait photographer who charged half a crown per shot for leaving photographs Lichfield charged just ninepence. After leaving Harrow, he followed tradition and progressed straight to the Sandhurst Military Academy, and from there into his father's old regiment, the Grenadier Guards in 1959.

For a young man used to being semi-imprisoned at public school, the excitement of the army was thrilling and Lichfield revelled in the travel and adventure that it offered. When not abroad, he was stationed at the Wellington Barracks in Westminster. This gave him the opportunity to set up home in London, and he found a spacious but tatty flat in Belgravia's Wilton Place in which he was thrilled to install his first darkroom. As a result, he became more and more enraptured with photography girlfriends proved willing models, and he often printed late into the night, hanging the results on the living room walls the next morning. However, though his passion grew so did his responsibilities to the army and his family, and he found himself increasingly unable to take photographs.

Lichfield's father had died young in 1958 and, when his grandfather died in 1960, Lichfield inherited the title and found himself embroiled in a complex battle with the Treasury over death duties. With responsibility looming, he resigned his commission with the Grenadier Guards and, while it took eighteen months to process, began to prepare himself for the inevitable role of landowner. However, Lichfield discovered that his grandfather, knowing that his imminent death would cause havoc with the family's finances, had decided to sell the family seat, Shugborough Hall, to the National Trust in lieu of death duties. Although still proprietor of 6,000 tenanted acres, this process freed Lichfield enormously and, when he walked out of the Wellington Barracks for the last time in October 1962, it was to photography, not land-management, that he went.

Lichfield found employment as an assistant to two photographers, Dmitri Kasterine and Michael Wallis, whom he had first encountered when they were on an advertising shoot outside his flat on Wilton Place. During his last few months in the army he beseeched them almost daily to employ him in some capacity, and finally they agreed to a four-week trial. This developed into an apprenticeship that lasted three years, a period that Lichfield described as being the most formative of his life. His responsibilities were typical of a photographic assistant, but the mundane tasks that form the backbone of a photographic shoot of course compose essential knowledge. Moreover, while he developed his skills in the studio and darkroom, he also learned the ins and outs of the cut-throat industry of commercial photography.

By 1963 Lichfield's position was beginning to look promising. He had found employment in the photography industry and, despite disapproval amongst his family trustees, he had been given a private allowance, albeit massively curtailed. He was also in the enviable position of being encouraged by his employers to venture out and find work for himself. At weekends he would retreat to Shugborough, the Lichfield family seat, where he combined relaxation with an essential show of face to his tenants.

Lichfield's first jobs inevitably came from members of the circles in which he mixed. Offering his services at a flat rate of five guineas, he began intermittent portraiture of London's smart set. Additionally, he began to photograph their young children, a service for which he began to develop an unintended word-of-mouth reputation. In both these ways, he was following the lead of his distant relation by marriage, Lord Snowdon. Ten years before, Anthony Armstrong-Jones had kick-started his career in exactly the same way from his Pimlico Studio. Lichfield also began to develop a little black book of potential models. These included the young Joanna Lumley, Jill Kennington and Jaqueline Bisset (whom his flat-mate had met on a bus). Bisset would work as the model on an early shoot for the fake fur company Astraka and, in his first properly commissioned fashion shoot in 1964, Lichfield found himself photographing the future doyenne of the fashion world, Grace Coddington. He also received his first assignment to photograph royalty when The Daily Express commissioned him to photograph Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, soon to be married to King Constantine of Greece. Whenever possible, Lichfield would further supplement his income by photographing the debutante dances that the London press so fervently wanted in print. By 1964, his society photographs were featured regularly in the Sunday Mirror, the Daily Express, and Queen magazine, and he was earning a reasonable income enough to indulge in a yellow Mini-Cooper.

Despite its pandering to a new, hip, young audience, Jocelyn Stevens' Queen magazine continued to fill page after page of its diary with this footage of debutantes. But while it paid the bills, Lichfield was too financially and creatively ambitious to be content with such unfulfilling work for long. However, his consistent quality, and clear ability for hard work eventually began to pay off. A trip to Jamaica in 1966 whetted his appetite for more serious work. Jocelyn Stevens commissioned Lichfield to travel to the island to photograph it for the Jamaican Tourist Board, with whom he had arranged a spread in his magazine. It was only promotional work, not die-hard photojournalism, but it gave Lichfield the chance to expand his reputation beyond social photography. However, it was his success at portraiture that enabled Lichfield to move on from the debutante dances, as Stevens began to use him to catalogue the movers and shakers of what Time magazine had dubbed Swinging London in the same year. Lichfield's new studio in Holland Park's Aubrey Walk became the destination for a myriad of colourful characters.

By 1967, Lichfield's reputation as a photographer was well established, and he had become a celebrated figure in London's cultural scene. However, during a trip with Jocelyn Stevens to Sardinia in September 1967, he received a telegram that was to take him further in the world of photography than he had ever dreamed. On returning to his hotel, he found the following communication: MEET ME CRILLON BAR PARIS TWELVE THIRTY SEPTEMBER SIXTEENTH. VREELAND. This was a summons from the legendary Diana Vreeland, editor of American Vogue, a figure so important in the magazine industry that Stevens declared the telegram a hoax. Lichfield was not so sure and, thanks to a last minute lift on the Aga Khan's jet, got himself to Paris in time for the meeting. Stevens had been wrong: Vreeland met him at the bar, and immediately dispatched him to photograph the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at their house outside Paris for her magazine. Vreeland wanted to declare the Duke the best-dressed man in the world later on that year. Lichfield's extraordinary shots of the couple are perhaps his most celebrated and widely exhibited pictures.

In the months that followed, Vreeland signed Lichfield to a contract with American Vogue. This was a career-making accolade, and he became only the fifth British photographer to have been under contract to the magazine the others being David Bailey, Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson and Snowdon. The inevitable result of this new source of commissions was that Lichfield began to spend more and more time in New York, where he developed a reputation for working hard and playing hard. After the erratic, slightly eccentric Queen magazine, Lichfield found Vogue very different. It was a well-oiled machine, glamorous on the surface, but supported by legions of unseen industry professionals that expected tight deadlines to be met, and results to be produced. Lichfield found the experience extremely rewarding, if exhausting, as Vreeland made the most of the youngest photographer on her books. The range of photography required was extensive, from studio fashion shots, through reportage, to portraits of notable individuals, and travel became a constant in Lichfield's life. The coverage of the wedding his friend, Bianca Rosa Peréz Macias, to Mick Jagger in St Tropez in 1971 was a particular challenge, not least because Lichfield was giving the bride away. However, the informal yet stylish results are testimony to Lichfield's ability with both people and camera. During this period, Lichfield became something of a regular feature in gossip columns on both sides of the Atlantic, not least because of his relationship with the actress Britt Ekland.

Until 1972, Lichfield lived almost exclusively in New York and to his chagrin returned to England only intermittently. However, as his reputation grew as a photographer he found himself being pulled in too many directions, so that it seems a slight tension developed between he and Vreeland. Despite being deeply grateful, Lichfield resented her unspoken restriction on photographers selling elsewhere. He also yearned to spend more time in England, both at his beloved Shugborough and at the Aubrey Road studio. The move back across the Atlantic heralded commissions from the newly published Ritz magazine, America's The National Enquirer, British Vogue and Buckingham Palace. The last of these was a request to celebrate the Queen's silver wedding anniversary, and Lichfield found himself touring the Far East with the Royal couple on board the Royal Yacht Britannia. This was his first extended commission to photograph the Royal Family, a post that he was virtually to make his own in the 1980s. He remained a freelance photographer for American Vogue, but was no longer tied to a contract.

If the 1960s had been Lichfield's decade of abandon to the pleasure of photography, then the 1970s represented his careful consolidation of that previous success. Recognising that the advertising world had begun to use high profile photographers to front their campaigns, Lichfield hired an agent and began to earn a good living from commercial work. His contract with the clothing company Burberry is of particular note as it requested the use of his face and name, as well as his photographs, as central to the branding strategy. Lichfield also signed a deal with the Radio Times to be its high-profile, principal photographer. The magazine boasted twelve million readers a week, and this enormous national coverage helped to make him a household name. From this enviable position, Lichfield found himself able to pick and choose the jobs that he wanted, and his work varied from shooting wedding dresses in the Brazilian jungle to covering Senator McGovern's presidential campaign in the USA as a photojournalist. He also began to exhibit his work around the world, putting on shows in London, Sydney and at a series of locations across North America. In 1975, he married Lady Leonora Grosvenor, with whom he had three children: Rose in 1976, Thomas in 1978, and Eloise in 1981.

Lichfield and his two long-term assistants Peter Kain (Pedro) and John White (Chalky) had come to comprise the consummate professional team. When, in 1979, Lichfield Studios was offered the chance to shoot a calendar for Unipart, the motor-spares company, they jumped at the chance. Lichfield had previously enjoyed contributing to a calendar for Kodak that took trees as its theme, and was excited about the opportunity to produce the type of highly finished, glossy pictures that calendars demanded. It was only on receiving the creative brief that Lichfield discovered that the company wanted nudes the last thing that the motor trade wanted to hang in their garages was pictures of motor-spares. This commission was the beginning of long association with Unipart that continued through seventeen successive calendars. For several weeks each year, Lichfield and his team set off to increasingly far-flung destinations to produce images that typically mixed a beautiful landscape with a beautiful girl. The first shoot was in Provence but, by the mid 1980s, Lichfield was heading to Kenya, Bali and beyond to find landscapes that would satisfy his requirement for drama and beauty. In 1985, the novelist Jilly Cooper accompanied him on a Unipart shoot to Death Valley in California. Together they published a best selling book about the trip entitled Hotfoot to Zabriskie Point, that marries Lichfield's photographs to Cooper's engaging text. In fact, the series of calendars became a mini-industry, spawning coffee table books and television documentaries. Lichfield had proven himself particularly adept at photographing women throughout his career, but it was not until these Unipart calendars that his name became utterly synonymous with beautiful women and exotic locations.

In the summer of 1981 Lichfield was given the commission to photograph the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, and thus cemented that other title to which he held claim, that of Britain's favourite Royal Photographer . It is tempting to assume that Lichfield's blood link to the Royal Family gave him precedence over others for the role, but it was never as easy as that. Buckingham Palace was going through a phase of broadening its horizons, and artistic commissions were being distributed on a deliberately unbiased basis. He was hired as a result of his fifteen-years consistent experience photographing the Royals, experience that had begun, long before the silver wedding shoot, with a portrait of the Queen in 1966. He was also a safe pair of hands who was skilled at controlling large groups of headstrong people. For example, when organising the official wedding group, that included many of the world's crowned heads, he gained their attention with sharp blasts on a whistle. In another inspired move, Lichfield told the group that he had finished shooting and that they could relax, then as they ceased posing and began joking with each other he fired off his last shot, capturing a priceless moment of Royal camaraderie. The variety of photographs that Lichfield took for the wedding, from the huge groups of Royals posed in the throne room to the intimate, behind-the-scenes reportage, demonstrate his skill at producing first class results under extreme pressure. These pictures were syndicated around the world countless times, and have become some of the most widely disseminated photographs in history.

Over twenty years Lichfield Studios had gone from strength to strength, and the man himself had become Britain's favourite photographer. During the early 1960s photography was a specialised medium from which only a lucky few managed to make a decent living, let alone a career. The explosion of printed media during the second half of the century meant that by the 1990s photographers were two-a-penny, and competition was intense. Lichfield's great accomplishment was his continual ability to provide inventive and fashionable photography that moved with the times.

Lichfield's adaptability can be best exemplified by an aspect of his practice in the late 1990s. For a photographer who had lived and breathed the traditional medium for thirty-five years, the advent of digital photography did not phase him, instead he was alive to its creative and financial potential. The photographic industry as a whole, perhaps fearful that careers were in jeopardy, was initially slow to warm to the new technology. Lichfield however became a pioneer, and resolved early on to turn Lichfield Studios digital. In 1999 he hired a new young assistant, Iain Lewis, whose expertise enabled him to take full advantage of digital's possibilities. In the new millennium, Lichfield photographed a plethora of stars for the Mandarin Oriental Group's Fan Campaign, and numerous shoots for some of the nation's favourite magazines. Saving more than £75,000 per year on film and processing costs helped the studio head for record profits, and Lichfield found himself at the forefront of photography once again.

Had he given in to his trustees in the early 1960s, photography would have lost one of its most talented and colourful characters, and the country one of its most important cultural archives, much of which has become synonymous with our perception of the celebrated and fashionable in the late twentieth century. But Patrick Lichfield was a man of his time, and as such would never have allowed this to happen he was always going to follow his own path. As he said in his last ever interview with Digital Photographer magazine in 2005, I sometimes wake up in the morning and think, this is just another amazing day. I'm not doing anything that I don't want to do. It's fantastic... what a life!

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