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The Photographer Who Captured England’s Last Hurrah

The Tatler photos were the polar opposite of what had begun to make a splash in RITZ, the raffish social newspaper of the late nineteen-seventies that was modelled on Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. Edited by the late David Litchfield, a former filmmaker, RITZ offered a parallel social world of louche café society, specializing in “candids” of such figures as Mick Jagger staring glassily in a flowered hat and eye makeup at one of Lord Glenconner’s Mustique galas, or dissolute closeups of half-eaten haute cuisine littered with cigarette stubs as a dazed Bryan Ferry and Jerry Hall float decadently past in glamorous disarray. I am not sure which of these worlds was more—or less—inviting, but as the new editor of Tatler I knew that they should not be mutually exclusive.

Historically, it was the right moment for the magazine to take a new visual direction. England was on the cusp of Mrs. Thatcher’s ascendance to Downing Street, and with it came an era of social division and hard-charging new money. In the words of Lady Hartwell, the wife of the Daily Telegraph’s editor, at a lunch party in Buckinghamshire, “At last we live in a world where we can sack people again.”

Margaret Thatcher arriving at the Winter Ball. Grosvenor House, London, 1984.

By the early eighties, the ruling class had its confidence back, but there was also—as the harshness of the Thatcher years played out—a nostalgia for the “Brideshead Revisited” era of aristocratic whimsy and frolicky romance. (The BBC TV adaptation of “Brideshead” ruled the airwaves in 1981.) The pages of Tatler needed to reflect all these crosscurrents, the emerging social edge, the high-low social mix, the secret excesses that still existed behind the closed doors of the great houses of England, and it needed to be chronicled with a cleverly irreverent point of view.

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