Friday 17 November 2017

Lewis Morley

Photographer whose iconic image of Christine Keeler epitomised the Sixties

Lewis Morley, who has died aged 88, took the photograph of Christine Keeler sitting naked astride a plywood chair which came to symbolise both the Profumo scandal and the sexual revolution of the Swinging Sixties.

The scandal was at its height when, in May 1963, Morley and Keeler faced each other across the camera in his studio on the first floor of Peter Cook's Establishment club in Soho. She was there to promote a film (which never got made), and after a few rolls were shot with the 19-year-old dressed in a leather jerkin, the film's producers demanded that she strip.

Morley, aware of his model's reluctance, expelled everyone from the studio, then turned his back on Keeler and asked her to undress and sit astride a fake version of Arne Jacobsen's design classic "model 3107 chair", which Morley had bought at Heal's for five shillings. Others who would grace it included David Frost, Joe Orton and Dame Edna Everage.

Morley walked away from his model; turning he spotted her "in a perfect position" and clicked the shutter once more – it was the last exposure of the film, and the image that would become world famous.

Both model and photographer, however, came to dislike the picture intensely. Morley always felt that it had overshadowed other, better work, while for Keeler it was "a constant reminder of difficult days".

"I do not like it," she said. "At times over the years I have hated it."

Lewis Morley was born on June 16, 1925, in Honk Kong, where his English father, also Lewis, was a pharmacist for Boots. His mother, Lucie Chan, was Chinese. Morley, who was an Australian citizen and spent the last 40 years of his life in Sydney, first visited Australia in 1940, but returned to Hong Kong shortly afterwards where he was soon interned by the Japanese.

After the war the family moved to London where he studied at art college.

In 1958 he moved to Tatler and soon after he met the director Lindsay Anderson, for whom he shot promotion stills for more than 100 productions at the Royal Court theatre. Morley thus met many of the rising stars of the day from Peter O'Toole to Maggie Smith.

By then he was deeply ensconced in bohemian Sixties Soho. Having taken photographs of the revue Beyond the Fringe in 1960, one of its stars, Peter Cook, invited Morley to set up his studio at the Establishment. Apart from Christine Keeler, subjects who posed for him there included Dudley Moore, Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, and Charlotte Rampling.

In 1971 Morley and his wife Patricia moved with their son to Australia. He spent the next 15 years on commercial work shooting for style magazines.

In 1989 the National Portrait Gallery in London staged Lewis Morley: Photographer of the Sixties. Lewis Morley's wife predeceased him. He is survived by their son.

Sunday Independent

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