Open a current issue of American or British Vogue and you’ll find pages of editorial spreads indebted to Norman Parkinson. Caroline Trentini walking with horses in Patagonia. Daria Werbowy crossing Broadway in a jacquard coat. It’s action realism – and Parkinson was its pioneer. He married the restrained elegance of court photography to the increasing mobility of pre-WWII London, placing fashion against a backdrop of sooty laneways and village pubs. A Very British Glamour, Rizzoli’s coffee table retrospective, focuses on these early and innovative days of Parkinson’s career. It’s a cursory read (no critical analysis or thorough biographical detail here) and the written scholarship is sparse – just a few pages chronicling the milestones in each of the six “chapters” of Parkinson’s public life. Which is forgivable because the book is full of exquisitely curated iconic images from the Parkinson canon. From debs in kid gloves to his wife Wenda in Times Square, Parkinson’s humourous spirit remained consistent over the decades. (See Pamela Minchin jumping into the English Channel in 1939 and Jerry Hall diving off a pedestal in 1970s Communist Russia.) It is indeed a very good introduction to the one they called Parks.
by Louise Baring – Rizzoli USA
reviewed by Sara Forsyth (originally published in Worn Fashion Journal Issue 11)