Nicky Haslam

Amen to an era

It must be said that Patrick Lichfield — the outer man — wore his ego proudly and loudly on his sleeve.

It must be said that Patrick Lichfield — the outer man — wore his ego proudly and loudly on his sleeve.

It must be said that Patrick Lichfield — the outer man — wore his ego proudly and loudly on his sleeve. And with his aristocratic yet trendy good looks, his Harrovian education, the brigade of Guards, his titled ancestry, royal connections and friendships, his persistent anecdotal recall, his ruffles and velvet or leather and denim, his stately pile, his dashing dare-devilry, let alone his reputed lotharian appetites, one can hardly blame him.

Inwardly, perhaps, this braggadocio was a salad-days reaction, for Lichfield’s youth was marred by family problems. His parents divorced when he was nine, his father’s death clouded his coming-of-age; his grandfather, wildly, decided to make the family home, Shugborough, over to the National Trust. But luckily, as a child, Patrick was given a camera, from which he was henceforth rarely parted; not unlike a Victorian predecessor, the Earl of Craven, he initially photographed, subtly and playfully, the landscapes, retainers and buildings of the Shugborough he so loved. This perceptive, sympathetic approach, imbued with gentle humour, suffused his future work, and this book of his photographs is aptly titled Perceptions.

Perhaps because of this upbringing, Lichfield’s work is, for the most part, essentially English in style. But he was un-
influenced by the surreal or rococo flourishes of the previous generation of British photographers — though there is a touch of Beaton in the portrait of Jane and Pandora Stevens — or the hard edge of contemporary newcomers, despite the fact that David Bailey, never a ligger for a lord, was a mate and admirer.

This could be due to the fact that Lichfield’s sitters were, for the most part, already celebs.

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