Terence Donovan: Speed of Light


I have to admit that I took my time in going to see Terence Donovan: Speed of Light at The Photographers’ Gallery. The show ends on the 26th September and it has been on since the 15th July.

There is a simplicity to Donovan’s work which I admire and I was shocked to hear on the news back in 1996 that he had taken his own life. Even though professionally he was at the top of his game, there must have been something wrong which made him think that the only solution was to do what he did. (Please do contact an organisation like the Samaritans if you ever find yourself in a similar situation)

What is interesting about his work is that it ended before the digital revolution took place and it was fascinating to see his hand written notebooks detailing the shoots with contact sheets stuck to the pages. Noting down how many rolls of film he used and the lighting set up is wonderful material for anyone interested in the technical side of photography. I’m not sure that there are many photographers who are so meticulous with their notes.

From looking at the work on display, Donovan never took a bad picture of any of his subjects. He managed to find a way to flatter with the picture showing what the person in front of the camera wanted to show you – the “perfect” life. A lifestyle that you may admire or even envy. But I guess that is what all lifestyle photography is about, showing the ideal regardless of what the reality is.

I will end this with one of the music videos Donovan directed, Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love.