Terence Donovan, who committed suicide recently at the age of 60, was,
with Brian Duffy and David Bailey, one of three photographers who
reinvented fashion photography in the 60s and 70s. He was also noted for
his many commercials and rock videos - all of which captured, and some
of which created, the fashion mood of the moment. Three admirers pay
My introduction to Donovan came through his early published work, which
pushed the boundaries of photography to such a degree that his images
leapt off the page - they were so fresh and bold.
Working as his assistant, I was impressed by his passion for, and
dedication to, his craft. Always the consummate professional, he had the
most amazing charisma with a sense of humour that made him one of the
most liked personalities in advertising.
Terence diversified into commercials but, to the end, kept his passion
for photography. As his most recent work testifies, he could still
produce wonderful images.
His air of East End unpretentiousness belied the fact that he was a
sensitive and intelligent man capable of great acts of generosity and
kindness. I, like many, will miss him enormously.
James Cotier Advertising photographer
Tom, our driver at Hedger Mitchell Stark, was a keen amateur
photographer and a member of the AFAEP. He was excited to be driving me
over to Donovan’s studio in Bourdon Street. Terence was his hero.
Standing outside the studio during a break, having a fag, I promised Tom
I’d introduce him to Terence. There was no need. Terence came out for a
break, spotted the AFAEP tie Tom was wearing specially for the day, and
engaged him in conversation. Terence settled down on the bonnet of Tom’s
car and talked F.8 for the best part of half an hour. He had us in
‘That’s enough of that; plenty of good men out of work,’ said Terence,
looking at his watch. As he levered his huge bulk off the bonnet of
Tom’s car, there was a wrenching sound of bending metal. The three of us
gazed at a perfect imprint of Terence’s buttocks in the middle of Tom’s
Terence and I looked, embarrassed, at Tom but he was delighted at ‘an
original Donovan print!’. Terence got in fast and signed it with an
indelible magic marker - I’ll bet Tom hasn’t got rid of the car to this
Terence Donovan had time for everyone. He was the most generous man I’ve
ever met. I’ll never forget him and neither will anyone else who was
lucky enough to meet him.
Matt Ryan Deputy creative director Saatchi and Saatchi
Terence Donovan was unique, a one-off. He was the most ‘unordinary’ man
you could ever meet. The only predictable things about him were his grey
suit, blue shirt and blue tie. He didn’t want the hassle of deciding
what to wear every morning.
His personality was so strong you felt he could make anything happen.
There’s no mistaking a Donovan picture - its power grabs you
immediately. He was a photographic samurai. He believed in what Cartier-
Bresson called ‘the decisive moment’ - that finite moment when the
picture suddenly becomes very special before disappearing forever. But,
‘if that moment doesn’t happen on its own, you just have to make it
happen’, he would say. And he did.
Then there was his humour. Without doubt, he was the funniest man I have
ever met. His stories and observations were unique, but never at the
expense of others.
Self image wasn’t important to him; ‘too time-consuming,’ he would say.
He lived every minute to the full: ‘Life’s not a dress rehearsal, it’s
the real gig.’ His appetite and enthusiasm for life was astonishing. He
was the best friend anyone could wish for.
As he would always say at the end of a late-night conversation: ‘God
bless ya. Tango Delta over and out.’
Brian Fraser Art director BMP DDB