Patrick Lichfield: A life in pictures
Patrick Lichfield, who died yesterday, leaves behind a body of work that stretches far beyond the royal household. His friend the photographer Terry O'Neill explains what made his work click
Saturday 12 November 2005
By the end, he had put his mind to every form of photography and conquered every one. He was just so happy in every medium: 35mm, 21/4 and digital.
As a guy we really got on. He was the most charming man. He had a bit of a cat's nine lives existence as far as injuries went. That was just part of his charm. He was able to get all of these famous people - the Jaggers, Jane Birkin, Marlon Brando - to sit for him because of that charm.
His name helped as well, of course. But his name also made it harder for him. We all loved him in the beginning, but nobody took him seriously. He stuck at it, learnt the technique, and it really worked for him. He had to prove himself even more in the serious form of photography precisely because he had such an aristocratic name. The same thing happened with Lord Snowdon - and there was great rivalry between the two of them. I would say it was only halfway through Patrick's career that anyone took him seriously.
Lichfield wasn't any good when he started. But he worked hard at his craft and he became an excellent photographer. He wasn't as important as [David] Bailey, but he was a very good technical photographer.
He switched to digital very early, about 10 years ago. He used to call me a dinosaur for not changing to digital, but I would never bend on that one. I felt it was cheating an image, but he revelled in the new medium.
When he was working on the digital, I really like the picture of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh that made all those stamps. But that was the advantage of digital for him - he had enormous facility with it. When he was on film, I thought one of his best shots was the Jaggers after their wedding.
Switching to digital, though, deprived Patrick of one of the things that he was really good at as a film photographer. He always used to have "one in the barrel" - a couple of shots left over at the end of the roll of film. That meant he could capture intimate moments after a shoot had finished. Some of his best stuff comes from those last couple of frames, and the picture of The Queen bending to stroke her horse is just one example.
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