Photography by Norman Parkinson: Lunch break on the bridge

National Theatre celebrates the centenary of Parkinson's birth

It isn't every day that you end up starring in a celebrated photograph in your lunch-hour. This 1959 image of a carefree couple on Brooklyn Bridge running towards the camera with the New York skyline as their backdrop, is one of Norman Parkinson's most famous shots. But its English star, Pippa Diggle, now 79 and living in London, was not a model nor an actress, but Parkinson's next-door neighbour in Manhattan.

Diggle was working as a medical secretary in America when Robin Miller, who wrote the book for the musical Dames at Sea, asked her if she would pose for a photograph with him as a favour to their famous neighbour, who had an assignment for Go – a travel magazine.

“We were meant to visit six locations but it poured with rain,” recalls Diggle, who had to dash straight back to work after the shoot. “Parks stopped the car and put the trunk up, pretending to have broken down. He crouched down and we had to run towards him on the bridge. He kept shouting, 'Run, dears, run!' I got the giggles. That's why we were laughing, as we had to keep running towards him.”

It was the first time Diggle had met Parkinson, who lived with his wife, Wenda, on the ground floor. “He was absolutely charming and wore his trademark embroidered cap. They lived in Tobago most of the time. After we met, he'd ring me and I'd buy his basic groceries before they returned,” she says.

“I had no idea this photograph would become one of his most famous – but neither did he. Often when I tell people it is me in the photo, they look at me rather blankly until I tell them the story.”

The photograph is one of 87 works by Parkinson on show in the National Theatre foyer to celebrate the centenary of Parkinson's birth in 1913. The exhibition covers all aspects of his long 50-year career as a fashion, portrait and society photographer, until his death in 1990.

The show includes many fascinating shots: Audrey Hepburn wears a pink dress in 1955 standing by a pink tree; a young Elton John looks dapper in a blue suit in 1977; Maggie Smith strikes a dramatic pose in a bright red dress and purple eye-shadow in 1970; Ava Gardner dazzles in a fashion shoot for Vogue in 1953; a simmering image of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor shows them huddled together on a street in Budapest in 1973; David Bowie, in 1977, wears lime-green trousers and waistcoat while sitting on a multi-coloured sofa and holding a pool cue.

Lifework: Norman Parkinson's Century of Style, National Theatre, London SE1 (www.national theatre.org.uk) to 12 May

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world