Lewis Morley, who died in September at 88 in Australia, was a British photographer who photographed many of the stars of the 1960s – the “Swinging Sixties” – including actors like Michael Caine, Susannah York and Charlotte Rampling, models Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy, and comedians such as Barry Humphreys. He was probably most famous for his iconic shot of call-girl Christine Keeler naked on a chair. Keeler was involved with Britain’s Defence Minister of the time, John Profumo, and a Russian diplomat, probably a spy. The 1963 scandal finished the politician’s career, but unlike the many sex scandals since, it has lingered because of this one compelling image.
After decades of photography, Morley retired in 1987, then had his collection meticulously catalogued and it has emerged he wanted to donate it to Britain to preserve his work. After researching various locations, he decided that the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK was the best place for his collection to reside.
Besides celebrity portraits Morley also did a lot of social reportage, including some of the famous events of the period such as the huge anti-Vietnam war demonstration in 1968 outside the US Embassy in London.
Comedian Barry Humphries, creator of Dame Edna Everage, said of him, “First of all, he was an artist and a lover of art with a great knowledge and an impressive private collection. He had an intense curiosity so that his pictures reveal their subjects intimately and with real compassion.
They are not just snaps but shared insights and portraits of an epoch unmatched, in my view, by any of his contemporaries.”
Paul Goodman, Head of Collections, Projects at the National Media Museum says, “It was with great sadness that the National Media Museum learned of Lewis Morley’s death. However, we are privileged to announce that we are concluding plans to consolidate his extensive archive in Bradford by the end of this year. The Lewis Morley Archive is currently split between Palm Springs in the USA and Sydney, Australia, and comprises a comprehensive selection of prints, including some of his best-known work, accompanied by his complete accumulation of negatives and extensive personal ephemera and correspondence.
“This major addition of work to the National Photography Collection by a significant photographer underlines our continuing commitment, wherever possible, to acquire complete or extensive archives of key practitioners, rather than selecting individual or small groups of work.”
The other collection with many of his pictures is the National Portrait Gallery in London, which has over 300 of Morley’s images in its online archives.
Morley was a powerful photographer of his era, perhaps overshadowed by more famous people like Bailey or Donovan, but he chronicled the lives of significant individuals in the wild decade or two when Britain’s social environment changed dramatically.