Just in time

Tiananmen Square 'Tank Man'Elizabeth Taylor, 'Sandpiper'I always seem to leave it to the last minute to catch exhibitions, and then often miss them completely. I was gutted to miss both the Paul Graham and Thomas Struth at the Whitechapel Gallery last year.

Luckily, I was alerted to the last weekend of The Sunday Times Magazine 50 year anniversary retrospective at the Saatchi Gallery by my mate’s post on his blog.

It was amazing to see both the breadth and also the influence that imagery has had over the years. While I agree that the war photography had a solemn poeticism that’s lacking in today’s cameraphone footage, among the standouts for me were two very contrasting images.

The first is Stuart Franklin’s iconic image of the ‘Tank Man’ in Tiananmen Square from June 1989. There were actually four photographers who to managed to cover the event and also smuggle their undeveloped film out of the country – no upload over mobile phone network then. I’m old enough to remember watching the TV footage that summer, which seemed the catalyst for a wave of revolution across Eastern Europe, dramatically culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall later that winter.

The other image is by Richard Avedon of Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Sandpiper in 1964. In this age of fleeting and undeserved 15 minute ‘celebrity’, Elizabeth Taylor had a star quality that’s hard to compare nowadays, renowned for both her professionalism and knowledge of film making. And at the time, Avedon was one of the leading American photographers working at the top of his game. No Instagram then…

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