‘The thing about the photographs is that there is no smell or sound and in sense it tells the truth and yet it is a lie’
Illustration of Duffy by Adrian Bailey
In the late seventies Duffy stopped taking stills and moved onto commercials, never to return to the stills camera again. In the following years Duffy became reclusive and refused to give interviews or talk about his time at the top as a photographer.
During the 90’s Duffy’s son Chris became frustrated that Duffy’s name was slowly slipping into obscurity and regularly tried to persuade him to do something with his remaining archive. It wasn’t until 2006 when Duffy was diagnosed with the degenerative lung disease Pulmonary Fibrosis that he finally gave Chris the green light to start putting the archive together. The process was a labour of love for the first few years. Organising, scanning and databasing what remained took many hours whilst Chris was running his video production company. In 2009 the opportunity to exhibit at Chris Beetles Gallery in Mayfair London gave Duffy the platform for his first ever exhibition and this was hailed with great critical acclaim. The exhibition ignited an incredible interest in his work and there were regular queues around the block.
During the process of putting the exhibition together the BBC commissioned a documentary on Duffy’s life and work which aired in 2010. Chris then started on the first monograph but sadly Duffy was never to see this and passed away on 31st May 2010. Since 2010 Duffy’s work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums around the world. In 2013 the Victoria and Albert Museum approached the archive to request use of his Aladdin Sane image as the lead image for the ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition. This exhibition was the fastest selling exhibition reaching record audiences and is now on tour worldwide. Duffy’s name has now become recognised by a worldwide audience and his name is back on the map.
In 2014 Duffy’s second book was released – ‘Five Sessions’ which covers his work with David Bowie. Written by Chris Duffy and Kevin Cann the book explores the chemistry and creation of these five iconic sets of images illustrated with interviews from people who were directly involved. For more information click here.
The archive is made up of negatives and contact sheets that have been retrieved from numerous UK and International magazines and newspapers such as Vogue, French Elle, Glamour, The Sunday Times and The Telegraph as well as those stored from commissions of modish magazines such as Queen, Town & London Life. The process of exhibiting Duffy’s work continues and the future holds several more book projects illuminating Duffy’s eclectic and influential work.