Dorothy Wilding was one of the most important and most prolific photographers of the 20th century, and yet she is little heard of today. She was a chronicler of the starriest of the golden age of British cinema, and also took the first official photographs of the new Queen Elizabeth the second in 1952, including an image which became the basis of one of the Queen’s first stamps of her long reign. She photographed film stars, writers, fellow photographers and socialites, and her pictures of the golden lights of the 1930’s in particular exude a glamour.
Dorothy’s work had a major retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery in 1991, and now some of her most famous works are being celebrated in a new photo exhibition ‘Dorothy Wilding 130 Photographs‘. The exhibition is taking place in Gloucester at the Eastgate Centre, and has been curated by Sisters of the Lens. The exhibition features some of her most famous subjects in enlarged images taken from her famous photographs, many of which are on display at the National Portrait gallery, or are part of the”Sisters of the Lens’ collection.
I love the images, particularly those of the iconic, brilliant Tallulah Bankhead, always such a darling of the West End, in comparison to her controversial reception in the home country where she was a shocking, diversive personality. Her photograph of Edna Best is stunning, taken around the time of her most famous role as the mother in Hitchcock‘s ‘The Man who knew too much‘ (1934).whilst her beautiful picture of Clare Bloom was taken just after her breakthrough performance in Chaplin’s Limelight (1952).
There are also images of style icons like actress Gladys Cooper, who appeared with Bette Davis in Now Voyager, and the now sadly forgotten Jessie Matthews, once the most famous British actress of them all, but one who suffered terribly through mental breakdowns and ill health after her most famous film role, Evergreen (1934).
The exhibition is free to view, and is on display until May 23rd, and is definitely worth a look for those who love popular culture and glamorous film stars of a bygone age.
In the film Sunset Boulevard, ageing movie queen Norma Desmond says ‘We had faces then’. This exhibition is proof of this, and a celebration of the pioneering woman who framed them so beautifully.