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Mr Sixties

60 ST

Philip Townsend's striking photography encapsulates the 1960s ranging from celebrity (before the term was dumbed down by wannabees) to everyday life including the tragic aftermath of the 1966 Aberfan mining disaster.

Philip's life has been as illustrious as the era he photographed having made numerous transformations to make Madonna look like a one-trick pony. Apart from being a landmark photographer of the 1960s, Philip has been a journalist courting at times controversy. However, it is to his photographic archive to which he has returned over the last few years, and most notably Philip was the first photographer of the Rolling Stones with the first shoot occurring a few days after Andrew Loog Oldham had become their manager.

The Stones photographs not only capture the original hierarchy with Watts and Jones being more prominent in the foreground than Jagger, but act as a historical record of the time. London may be swinging, but the fabric still showed the signs of Second World War ravage and austerity of the 1950s. The images are not only a record of the emerging rock phenomena but a commentary on the times.

The seminal photographs of the 1960s are a far cry from Philip's inauspicious beginnings in Hampshire. Philip afflicted by dyslexia made school a tough place; he did not read until 15 years old. He attended over 27 schools. Attendance at art school suffered one setback, namely Philip could not draw, whilst interior design was hampered by an innate inability to measure. However, his mother undeterred was determined to find a milieu for her son, and the answer came via an advertisement in The Times whereby portrait photographer Pamela Chandler required an apprentice. She was the pearl and twinset equivalent of Annie Liebowitz.

Philip was taken on after payment of a £500 indenture paid by Philip's mother's Trustees who provided £1000 so that Philip could start his new career, and also his mother could settle into late 1950s London life. Philip's mother was a socialite and gambled at the bespoke gambling houses of London frequented by the aristocracy and the rich. Her career guidance for Philip was more successful than her times at the card table.

Once Philip flew Chandler's nest he established his first studio with Lord Christopher Thynne, son to the 60 CoverShotlast Marquis of Bath. Philip regularly worked for Tatler but then became freelance and headed for the South of France to photograph the great and the good of the time including Churchill, Rex Harrison, Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis. It was in France Philip met Andrew Loog Oldham...

Philip continued to amass an amazing eclectic array of images of the 1960s from cars to politicians to many beautiful women such as Charlotte Rampling and Twiggy. Philip's work reminds us that natural beauty does exist and need not be air brushed or the subject having to be enhanced by silicon implants equivalent to Camber Sands.

60 StonesHowever, Philip decided to give up photography in 1969 astutely realising that the unique times of the 1960s were coming to an end to be replaced by the 'hangover' of the 1970s. Philip's legacy is an amazing collection of natural and witty photographs telling their own story. Philip was and remains 'Mr Sixties' his work is of its time but remains a captivating historical beacon for generations to come.
When I asked the effervescent Philip what is his contribution from the 1960s his retort was 'Knowledge!'. Mr Sixties indeed.


Philip Townsend and Rupert Murdoch.

Apart from his role as a leading 1960s photographer, Philip Townsend's other significant claim to fame is that he acted as butler for News International (News Corp being its parent company) mogul, Rupert Murdoch. Philip appeared last year in a Channel 4 TV documentary about Rupert Murdoch, and during the interview Philip Townsend indicated that Mr Murdoch had told his newspaper editors to target TV presenter Anne Diamond who had been critical of Murdoch. Philip Townsend comments formed part of Anne Diamond's evidence to the current Leveson Inquiry which is reviewing press and media standards in the United Kingdom. When Rupert Murdoch recently gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, he was asked about Philip Townsend, and the response was, 'I know who made that claim, and it was my housekeeper, a very strange bird indeed. Though he did keep it (the house) clean.'

Since appearing before the Leveson Enquiry, the House of Commons Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee has produced their contentious report which by a majority decision has stated Mr Rupert Murdoch is 'not a fit person' to exercise stewardship of a major international company. The United Kingdom's regulator of media and communication Ofcom is completing its enquiry as to whether News Corp is a fit and proper body to own a broadcast licence. News Corp has a 39% shareholding in the successful TV company BSkyB.

Prior to the Leveson Inquiry, Philip Townsend considered Rupert Murdoch would survive the Inquiry.

Julian Wilkins

Julian Wilkins is Editorial Director for Blue Pencil Media Limited. Julian has a LLB (Hons) in law and M.Phil in law as well as a Diploma in European law and was admitted as a solicitor in 1988; he practices in the area of media, entertainment, and intellectual property law as a consultant for Devereaux Solicitors in London. Julian is also a Notary Public and CEDR accredited commercial mediator. Julian has written for academic publications and contributed to an Exhibition Catalogue about 1960s photographer Philip Townsend. Julian is a member of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers and also the British Institute of International and Comparative law. Julian is a finalist in The Media Lunch Club “Short Circuit” script competition to be held in November 2011. Julian’s comments “The rapidly changing world economy and technology is presenting incredible opportunities for the Creative Industries and Blue Pencil hopes to reflect and contribute to these changes.”

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