Jim Lee changed the face of fashion photography

For Jim Lee, fashion photography was always about his models rather than the clothes. On publishing his memoir, this provocateur of the 1960s and 1970s reflects on his work with Ossie Clark and Anna Wintour – and where the likes of ‘Vogue’ have gone wrong.

Think of British fashion photographers in the 1960s and 1970s and the obvious names spring to mind: David Bailey, Terence Donovan, Patrick Lichfield. There was a time when Jim Lee might have been included in their number.
Hailed as Britain’s answer to Guy Bourdin, Lee provocatively applied a radical chic to the era’s most celebrated fashions – the Ossie Clark dresses, the Jaeger bags, the Biba girls – by thrusting them into unsettling, political landscapes filled with war and terror: models clutched machine guns instead of handbags, were cradled in soldiers’ arms in smoke-filled fields, or captured walking free of plane crashes, unscathed and beautifully dressed. Lee’s star burnt brightly – yet his legacy remained largely forgotten until an Ossie Clark retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2003 kickstarted a revival. Exhibitions and coffee-table books followed and now Lee is bringing out his memoir, Life in B&W, in part because his early life story has been optioned for a film. “I never intended to write a story of my life,” he admits. “You just live life, don’t you? Live in the moment. I don’t think about the future or the past so much as I just enjoy it as much as I can now.”

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