Lewis Morley, the photographer who snapped the definitive 1960s shot of Christine Keeler at the height of the Profumo scandal, in1963, has died in Australia age 88. He personally refereed to the iconic portrait as “that fucking Keeler shot” as it overshadowed much of his equally important later work, from the sixties to present. Seated in an Arne Jacobsen chair the shot oozes with sex appeal capturing a confident woman in control of her alluring powers. This photograph predates the rise of the Feminist Movement but predicts a shift in attitudes towards woman’s liberation.
Morley made his name as one of the chroniclers of British history. His photos of the 1968 anti Vietnam War demonstrations in Hyde park are still considered text book photo journalism and shown as examples at universities globally. His portraits are some of the best of the period and include David Frost, Joe Orton, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller.
He was born in Hong Kong to English and Chinese parents and interned in Stanley Internment Camp during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong between 1941 and 1945, when he was released and emigrated to the United Kingdom with his family. He studied at Twickenham Art School for three years, and spent time as a painter in Paris in the 1950s. Morley began his career with assignments for magazines such as Tatler. He was also a successful theatre photographer for over 100 West End productions.
Morley emigrated to Australia in 1971 with his wife Patricia and son Lewis, where he lived in the inner west of Sydney. He did studio and commercial work photographing architecture and food in magazines such as Belle, and worked with interior designers and stylists such as Babette Hayes, and Charmaine Solomon until his retirement in 1987. In 1989 he collaborated with photographs curator Terence Pepper in staging his first Museum retospective at London’s National Portrait Gallery and subsequently donated all the images printed for the exhibition as part of a larger archive of his work. His first autobiography Black and White Lies was published in 1992.
In 2006, an extensive exhibition showcasing 50 years of Lewis Morley work was displayed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This included 150 of his works covering fashion, theatre and reportage, many of which had never been seen before. Morley donated an extensive archive of over 10,000 prints and personal papers to a public collection in Britain. “The Lewis Morley archive is a major cultural asset that any institution would be thrilled to acquire,” Michael Terwey, head of collections and exhibitions at the National Media Museum, stated. “The archive’s full scope and significance goes beyond individual photographs or decades.”