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Arena: aka Norman Parkinson

Arena: aka Norman Parkinson

Sun Apr 21, 9-10pm, BBC4

By Gabriel Tate
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Born Ronald Smith (hence the aka), Norman Parkinson became one of the key fashion photographers of the 1950s, bridging the divide between Cecil Beaton’s society portraits and David Bailey’s fashion shoots, and maintaining a remarkably healthy career up until his death in 1990. The secret lay in adapting his professional skills to the times while remaining exactly the same in person, carefully cultivating his image as the English eccentric whether shooting royalty, celebrities, models or, in the ’80s, the grotesquely ostentatious super-rich of America.

Friends and collaborators including Jerry Hall, Iman and Vogue alumni pay tribute in a handsome-looking and peerlessly researched (well, it is ‘Arena’, after all) documentary. Parkinson seems an admirably unpretentious sort, but this is a strangely uncritical profile that it’s hard to imagine appealing much beyond fashion buffs.
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