David Hamilton (15 April 1933 – 25 November 2016) was a British photographer and film director best known for his photography of young women and girls, mostly in the nude.
His artistic skills began to emerge during a job at an architect’s office. At age 20, he went to Paris, where he worked as graphic designer for Peter Knapp of Elle magazine. After becoming known and successful, he was hired away from Elle by Queen magazine in London as art director. Hamilton soon realised his love for Paris, however, and after returning there became the art director of Printemps, the city’s largest department store. While Hamilton was still employed at Printemps, he began doing commercial photography, and the dreamy, grainy style of his images quickly brought him success.
His photographs were in demand by other magazines such as Réalités, Twen and Photo. By the end of the 1960s, Hamilton’s work had the recognisable style of a misty look. His further success included many dozens of photographic books with combined sales well into the millions, five feature films, countless magazine publishings and museum and gallery exhibitions. In December 1977, Images Gallery—a studio owned by Bob Persky at 11 East 57th Street in Manhattan—showed his photographs at the same time that Bilitis was released. At that time art critic Gene Thornton wrote in The New York Times that they reveal “the kind of ideal that regularly was expressed in the great paintings of the past”. Hamilton has said that his work looks for “the candor of a lost paradise”. In his book Contemporary Photographers curator Christian Caujolle wrote that Hamilton worked only with two fixed devices: “a clear pictorial intention and a latent eroticism, ostensibly romantic, but asking for trouble”. In 1995 Hamilton said that people “have made contradiction of nudity and purity, sensuality and innocence, grace and spontaneity. I try to harmonize them, and that’s my secret and the reason for my success”. Besides his main theme of depicting young women Hamilton made pictures of flowers, men, landscapes, farm animals, pigeons and photographic still lifes of fresh fruits. Several of his photographs look like oil paintings. Most of his work gives an impression of timelessness because of the absence of cars, modern buildings and advertisement boards. In 1976 Denise Couttès explained Hamilton’s phenomenal success on page 6 of The Best of David Hamilton. She wrote that his images expressed “escapism. People can only escape from the violence and cruelty of the modern world through dreams and nostalgia”.
His soft focus style came back into fashion at Vogue, Elle and other fashion magazines from around 2003. Hamilton was in a relationship with Mona Kristensen (b. 1950), who was a model in many of his early photobooks and made her screen debut in Bilitis. Later he married Gertrude, who co-designed his book The Age of Innocence, but they divorced amicably.
Hamilton divided his time between Saint-Tropez and Paris. Since 2005 he had been enjoying a revival in popularity. In 2006 two new books were published: David Hamilton, a collection of captioned photographs, and Erotic Tales, which contains Hamilton’s fictional short stories.
At the time of his death, Hamilton was working on a book, Monography of Montenegro. As of 2017 the book is about to be realised. He was working with his first and last assistant of photography, Jelica Bujic.
The Guardian: David Hamilton found dead amid allegations of historical rape