Portraits of the Artists
This evening an exhibition of photographs of artists by Kevin Davies opens at Timothy Everest’s atelier in Shoreditch: it will be on view to the public for a week from tomorrow. At a recent show of Auerbach at Tate Britain (Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings from the Lucian Freud Estate) one of the drawings is after Davies’ photograph of Frank Auerbach with Lucien Freud, taken in 2002. They are having breakfast at the Cock Tavern in Smithfield. Although both reluctant sitters, Davies persuaded them to be photographed together, capturing the rather jolly camaraderie that existed between these two influential artists. The photograph that inspired Auerbach’s drawing exemplifies the work of a largely unknown photographer working quietly behind the scenes for over thirty years. Kevin Davies understands, much like Diane Arbus or Henri Cartier-Bresson, the power of a strong visual narrative.
I first came across Kevin’s work in the late 1980’s, when Phil Bicker, the perspicacious art director of The Face recommended I look at the work of two young photographers Jürgen Teller and Kevin Davies with a view to representation. Kevin had just shot pictures of that enfant terrible of the restaurant scene, Marco Pierre White, capturing his obsessive dedication and eye for detail that went on to earn him three Michelin stars before the age of 33. I was floored and offered representation immediately – which he tactfully turned down.
Of the two photographers, Jürgen Teller quickly established himself, his work capturing the spirit of the 90’s Brit pop culture and has deservedly become a cornerstone of the fashion community. But Davies chose a somewhat less flamboyant path; even though he has worked for much the same publications, few people outside the fashion and music industry will know who he is.
He was born in London and spent his teens in Cornwall, then studied fine art at Winchester, his intention to become a sculptor. It was after the head of department pointed out that his photographs of his work were actually superior to their subject that Kevin changed direction. He moved to London and started working for the NME photographing, amongst others, Tom Jones, Public Enemy and LL Cool J. Ever a keen eye for young talent, iconic magazines, The Face, i-D and Arena clamoured to commission him. His pictures suited the period, with their stark black and white imagery often evoking his earlier interest in sculpture. It was in 1991, when he started photographing U2, shooting stills on their The Fly video and then travelling with the band to Sarajevo, that his imagery began to evolve. He developed a more subtle, photojournalistic approach to his work – preferring to capture that ‘decisive moment’. However he never quite gave up his eye for all things sculptural. In the same decade a fortunate encounter with milliner Philip Treacy, introduced by another gimlet eyed talent spotter, Isabella Blow, led him to an extraordinarily fruitful collaboration. Sixteen years later, this culminated in rather beautiful book, Phillip Treacy by Kevin Davies, published by Phaidon in 2013.
The exhibition runs from 20 November to 1o December, weekdays only, 10am to 5pm.
Timothy Everest Ltd
32 Elder Street
London E1 6BT
020 7377 5770