“Black Country DADA
1969 – 1990
I have written my autobiography … yes, I have written it myself! A hardback book of over 200 pages, with an insightful introduction by W. M. Hunt. It tells truthfully what it was like to survive and make ones way as a photographer in Britain back then. I tell the story through my personal experience of those tough times.
Those were those analogue days! Growing up amongst the factories of the Black Country, studying photography in Manchester alongside my friends Daniel Meadows and Martin Parr, and then filled with trepidation going down to London to make a living as a photographer in the early 1970’s.
In popular recollection, the 1970’s have gone down as the dark ages, Britain’s gloomiest period since the second world war, set between Harold Wilson’s ‘swinging sixties’ and Margaret Thatcher’s divisive eighties.What was it like to be a young photographer then?
By the end of the 1980’s my photography was known throughout the world. How did I do it? What did I go through? It’s all in this book that tells the story warts and all.”
“British photographer/director siblings Andrew and Stuart Douglas are renowned creatives, known primarily for their rebellious approach to photography and film direction.
Having grown up in Southend Essex and later, London, the pair’s legacy began in the midst of the London punk movement, where they used their “incorrect” style to snap some of the world’s most iconic figures during their youth, including Richard Gere, Morrissey, Timothy Roth and Tilda Swinton.
Since then, their work has evolved and continued to disrupt the creative and commercial worlds alike, with their left-of-centre work for Adidas, Coco Cola and Hollywood feature-length films.
In this episode, Andrew and Stuart share their personal and professional stories – which are often one in the same.
They recount their origins, moving from stills to videos, how working with your brother can simultaneously result in your best work and decade-long feuds, and ultimately how they “find wellness while keeping the hamster-wheel going.” …”
Kudos to Australia-based strategic designer Vince Frost of Frost* collective for recording this podcast with The Douglas Brothers, Andrew and Stuart.
Whether they realized it or not, the Douglas Brothers played an instrumental role in my life when they recommended me to their apparently one and only advertising agency client at the time, the brilliant copywriter Tim Delaney of the then Leagas Delaney Partnership, on the basis of my having come up with the idea of ‘not only Black+White’ magazine.
I had travelled to the UK as the magazine’s European Contributing Editor several years after its founding in order to meet some of the great photographers I had been working on articles with remotely, via telephone, in those days before everyone used email, chat and the World Wide Web as they do now.
I was rewarded with considerable time spent face-to-face with many of them, met plenty more of them and better yet experienced an acceptance and a respect from all entirely unknown to me back in Australia before or since.
My experience with The Douglas Brothers was a standout, and that is saying something.
Their work, their experiences and backgrounds had some key similarities to my own, enough to amply validate a saying I had long shared with my photography students over the years before leaving Western Australia, “Be yourself, only, more so”.
The Douglas Brothers’ approach to portrait photography came about through the same lack of time allocated with their subjects, lack of funds available for the best and most versatile equipment and back then a lack of recognition from potential clients able to grant them real money for their work.
That recognition was about to come, though, due to the way that photographers overseas were not locked into career-limiting labels like magazine photographer or newspaper photographer as apparently occurs here in Australia still.
At the time I met them, The Douglas Brothers had begun producing longer-form television commercials, evolving beyond the 10-second spots with which they broke into directing, their TV work possessing as much the unique Douglas Brothers stamp as their photographs.
They truly were being themselves, only, more so, a lesson that should have been well-heeded by the students mentioned in a comment made by Stuart Douglas in an article for advertising industry bible Campaign:
On their photographic style: ‘We used to see students’ photography portfolios with work that identically copied ours, only it was better. We never knew how to take this,’ Stuart comments.
During the time I worked at The Leagas Delaney Partnership, now simply named Leagas Delaney, I encountered quite a few young photographers toting portfolios of work copying that of their idols though The Douglas Brothers did not count among them.
My advice to those fresh young wannabes?
“Be yourself, only, more so.”
- Andrew Douglas
- Artimage – The Douglas Brothers
- artnet news – Why Did the National Portrait Gallery Buy These Celebrity Portraits That Were Nearly Destroyed?
- Campaign – CRAFT: Profile; Douglas Brothers prepare to move their style on
- Creative Review – Out of the darkness, the return of The Douglas Brothers – article available only to subscribers.
- Design Your Life – Design Your Life podcast Episode 011 with the Douglas Brothers
- Eye Magazine – We are a camera
- Flaunt – THE DOUGLAS BROTHERS: A CHAT WITH THE REUNITED DUO WHO’S DEBUTING THEIR SEE/SAW PHOTO EXHIBIT IN LOS ANGELES
- Frost* Collective – SEE/SAW, The Douglas Brothers Exhibition
- Instagram – @thedouglasbrothersofficial
- Instagram – andrewdominicdouglas
- Instagram – stuartcharlesdouglas
- Kopeikin – The Douglas Brothers
- Kopeikin – The Douglas Brothers: SEE/SAW January 13 – February 17, 2018
- National Portrait Gallery – The Douglas Brothers (1952-; 1962-)
- The Douglas Brothers – website
- The Frame – Creative conflict helped the Douglas brothers make beautiful photos — then it tore them apart
- The Guardian – National Portrait Gallery buys celebrity portraits saved from warehouse
- The Guardian – Salvaged stars: from Shaun Ryder to Judi Dench – in pictures
- Nice Shirt Films – Stuart Douglas
- PlayerFM – EP011 Vince Frost’s Design Your Life with the Douglas Brothers – downloadable M4A audio file.
- Reset Content – Andrew Douglas
- Untitled – Andrew Douglas
- Untitled – The Douglas Brothers
- Vanity Fair – These Captivating Douglas Brothers Portraits of Morrissey, Cindy Crawford, and More Were Almost Lost Forever
- The Week – Rediscovering the Douglas Brothers
- Wikipedia – Douglas Brothers
Help support ‘Untitled’
“Months ago, I got the crazy idea to write, produce and direct my first documentary. I wasn’t completely unrealistic — I knew enough to start small with a short, micro-budgetfilm. I also knew I could count on a supportive network of documentary filmmakers — including pros such as Doug Block, Marshall Curry, Laura Nix, Tracy Droz Tragos, Robert Greene, and others — to help guide me through the process. Later in this piece, I’ll share some of their invaluable wisdom. But first, here’s a bit about my film and my process so far….”