Damon Albarn by Douglas Brothers, 1990 © The Douglas Brothers.
The National Portrait Gallery has acquired a group of portraits of leading British cultural figures photographed in the 1990s - including Daniel Day-Lewis, Damon Albarn, Alan Bennett, Tilda Swinton, Bob Geldof and Salman Rushdie.
They have been saved from destruction after being rescued from a condemned warehouse in King’s Cross. The important body of portraits from British photographic team The Douglas Brothers had sat in a disused storage unit in London for two decades.
The Douglas Brothers began working together in the 1980s, producing photographs for the magazine press and music industry. Their photographic partnership ended in 1995, with both pursuing separate careers in the United States directing movies and commercials. They are both now based in Los Angeles. The brothers stored their photographic archive in a King’s Cross lock-up that, nearly 20 years later, was earmarked to make way for redevelopment.
Andrew Douglas says: ‘The storage company took over a year to track us down. Even then it was nearly too late’.
Stuart Douglas says: ‘The building was about to be demolished. Ten years of work came very close to ending up as landfill.’
The brothers contacted London-based artist manager Tim Fennell (bonabattoir.com). ‘I received a phone call asking me to drop everything,’ says Fennell, ‘and clear a lock-up on a demolition site. I had 48 hours before the building was bulldozed. I retrieved 30 crates of negatives and prints that hadn’t seen the light of day for nearly two decades. It was a remarkable body of work, just sitting there, forgotten.’
Fourteen of their evocative and atmospheric portraits were accepted for the National Portrait Gallery’s Primary Collection. The photographs feature Bob Geldof, Shaun Ryder, Tilda Swinton, Damon Albarn, Alan Bennett, Bryan Ferry, Daniel Day-Lewis, Eric Clapton, Ian McEwan, John Le Carre, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kenneth Branagh, Peter Gabriel and Salman Rushdie.
The Douglas Brothers (thedouglasbrothers.com) spent a decade photographing leading figures from the worlds of art, literature, film, music, sport and fashion. The brothers - real life siblings Stuart and Andrew Douglas - were once described as ‘the most desirable photographers of their generation.’ They were the last people to photograph Salman Rushdie before he went into hiding following the death threats made against him in response to the publication of his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.
Dr Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The Douglas Brothers produced some of the most distinctive portraits of the 1990s. Although their photography has since become less well known, this is work that has stood the test of time. Making use of older, historic processes, their pictures are still as fresh and exciting as the day they were made, and make a wonderful addition to the national collection of photographic portraits.’
The Douglas Brothers’ portraits will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery in August 2017.