Thursday, 25 July 2013

Rowan Bulmer - Swinging London's Forgotten Photographer

From Biba's advertising campaign, London, Kensington, 1966

Recently, I've been flicking through London fashion/culture magazine Jocks & Nerds, where I found the article about 1960's London photographer Rowan Bulmer. Unlike his contemporaries David Bailey, Terence Donovan, Brian Duffy, Robert Whittaker and many others, Rowan Bulmer and his work remain almost completely unknown today - which is unusual, considering Bulmer's high profile in the 1960's. He was friends with The Rolling Stones (reportedly, he introduced Mick Jagger to Chrissie Shrimpton), he photographed and hung out with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, he was an official photographer for Mod meccas - TV programme Ready Steady Go! and Marquee club. He did first ever Biba advertising campaign and countless fashion photoshoots. Normally, a photographer of such calibre would today have his work published in a Taschen coffee table book, exhibited in museums, and the prints would sell a £100+ per pop. But not Rowan Bulmer. There are various reasons for that. As Chris May wrote in Jocks & NerdsDriven by passion rather than careerism, Bulmer never bothered to archive his work. What's more, The Marquee club, which stored a large chunk of Bulmer's negatives, had unfortunately lost them when it moved out of Wardour Street in 1988.

Rowan Bulmer dancing the Twist, Eel Pie Island, 1962

In 2011, Bulmer's daughter Tahita (who is a lead singer in indie band New Young Pony Club) has found a large box of old prints that her father left in UK after moving to South of France year earlier. Box contained unseen photos of Stones, Hendrix , The Who and other legendary musicians as well as fashion photos and various snapshots of Swinging London scene. According to Chris May, Bulmer seemed surprised that anyone would be interested in his story (or his photos).

And what a fascinating story it is (A classic case of right place, right time - Chris May). Bulmer was born in 1943 and grew up in Chiswick. At 16, he enrolled at Chelsea College of Art. Like many of his art school pals, Bulmer was a jazz and Rn'B enthusiast and quickly became a regular on Soho's beatnik/coffee bar scene. One of his favourite hang-out at that time was Duke Of York pub in York Alley, Soho. He remembers: The Duke Of York is probably where it all started. It was very important. Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, they they all hung out there. everyone was drinking and smoking dope non-stop. Everyone was scoring and there was Benzidrine and heroin. I never got into drugs myself. I saw it wreck too many people and made a decision early on.  Around 1962, Bulmer started hanging out in the Ealing Club, Richmond's Station Hotel, Crawdaddy Club and Eel Pie Island - a places now considered a cradle of British Rn'B scene. He witnessed early gigs of The Pretty Things, The Downliners Sect, The Artwoods, Cyril Davies All Stars, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, Jimmy Powell and The Five Dimensions (featuring Rod Stewart), The Tridents (Jeff Beck's first band). He witnessed Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood learning their trade before they hit superstardom. I first went to Eel Pie Island when I was 15 - he remembers. I became a pot boy, collecting empty glasses from the tables. It was a traditional jazz club and then they brought in Rn'B on Wednesday nights. I loved it all.  

Keth Moon photographed by Rowan Bulmer

Around that time, Bulmer became a photographer. All these musicians I knew started to need photographs, and I thought, 'I can do that'. And because they were my friends, I took a lot of shots just for myself. Among his numerous musician friends were The Rolling Stones whom he met through Giorgio Gomelsky - owner of Crawdaddy Club and Stones' early manager, when he was shooting promotional film about The Stones in 1963. They were filming at station Hotel - Bulmer remembers - I was well known as a dancer and they were waiting for me to arrive before they started filming. The Stones were playing 'Pretty Thing' and the girl  I was dancing with happened to be Brian Jones' girlfriend Linda Lawrence. She later married Donovan, hence the song 'Linda'. Anyway, I went to a work-in-progress screening at the Intrepid Fox pub on Wardour Street and afterwards I was chatting to Giorgio and he realised that I knew everyone. He was worried that he would get troublemakers at the Crawdaddy and he asked if I would work with him and keep an eye out for these characters. So I stopped going to Eel Pie so often and I was with Giorgio. This was when I got to know the Stones well.

Mick Jagger photographed by Rowan Bulmer in 1967

Bulmer was very close to Brian Jones - at one point they even considered moving in together. Bulmer says: We went flat hunting together a lot. We looked at lots of places, but somehow it didn't happen. Some people didn't like Brian, but I did. He was generous and he was really passionate about the blues. Evidently, Bulmer was less impressed by Andrew Loog Oldham - a young manager, who snatched The Stones from Giorgio Gomelsky. He was alright. A bit arrogant. I didn't really know him before he took over the Stones. There were a lot of people trying to get the Stones at that time. I was surprised when he got them.
By 1964, Rowan Bulmer was approached by the producers of new TV programme called Ready Steady Go!. He became an official photographer for this soon-to-be-cult Mod show. His other role in RSG! was finding new hot bands for the show - perfect for somebody with his connections and position on the scene.

Roll of film Bulmer shot at RSG! around 1965 - if you clack on it you can see Cathy McGowan and some soul band - anybody knows who they are?

Around that time Bulmer also became an official photographer at the Marquee Club, where he shot pretty much anybody who was anybody in the 1960's London. Unfortunately, his decision of storing his negatives at the club proved disastrous.

Ronnie Wood, Chris Barber and Jeff Beck at the Marquee, 1967

Bulmer also took a lot of photos at The Speakeasy Club.

Jimi Hendrix Experience at The Speakeasy, 1967

Drag artist at The Speakeasy, 1967

Eric Clapton onstage with Cream, National Jazz and Blues Festival, Windsor, 1966

Mods, National Jazz and Blues Festival, Windsor, 1966

Geno Washington, 1965
From 1964 onwards, Bulmer also worked as a fashion photographer.
Fashion shots featuring model Wendy Richards, circa 1965

When Barbara Hulanicki opened Biba, she hired Rowan Bulmer to do the advertising campaign.

Photoshoot for Biba, Kensington Church Street, 1966
Fashion shoot at Yellow Submarine club, London, 1966. I don't know who the designer was but the clothes look amazing. I wish we could see a better quality version..

Same goes for this menswear ad from around 1966

London Mod/Psych band The Syn (their line-up included Chris Squire - future member of Yes) modelling newest Carnaby Clobber outside Marquee Club, 1967

Immaculately-looking Rod Stewart with female friends, 1967 ( I wonder where this photo was taken. I can see some David Bailey prints in the background...)

Rowan Bulmer continued working as a photographer in London in the 1970's. In 1980's, he moved to Ilkley,Yorkshire. He created large-scale sculptures on the Yorshire Moors. Around that time he also had his own art exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. In 1984, Bulmer, passionate anti- Thacherite, joined a picket lines during miners' strike (I've always been on the Left - he says. My parents were Tory councillors; it's a reaction to that).
In the 1990's Bulmer returned to London. He opened his own studio on King's Road in Chelsea, where he worked until his retirement in 2010. Today, he lives in Dordogne in southwest France.
I don't know how much is left from his 1960's work, but I sure hope to see more. Rowan Bulmer doesn't seem interested in 'cashing-up', but the reasons for restoring and publishing the remains of his 1960's work do not have to be financial. Contrary to what he might think, there is a lot of interest in this, now legendary, era.

All the photos and quotations come from Chris May's article in Jocks & Nerds magazine, Volume 1 Issue 7, p 48-57.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Dandies in Kaftans

Carnaby Street, 1967

When it comes to male fashion, kaftans will always be associated with that brief period between late 1966 and early 1968. For  those several months kaftans were all the rage - an obligatory component of psychedelic dandy/peacock/hippie look. 
The term 'kaftan' is not really correct. Kaftan is a garment of Persian origin - a type of overdress usually reaching the ankles, with long sleeves. 'Kaftans' worn by fashionable men in late 1960's were in reality Nehru Jackets. It is a garment of Indian origin, named after Pandit Jewarharlal Nehru - a Prime Minister of India between 1947 and 1964. He often wore front-buttoned, knee-length jackets with mandarin collar known as ackhan or sherwani.

    Pandit Jewarharlal Nehru

 In the late 1940's, the garment based on ackhan was created in India, and it was known as Band Gale Ka coat ('Closed Neck' coat). It was considerably shorter that ackhan, usually only reaching hips rather than knees. In fact, apart from the mandarin collar, the garment closely resembled normal suit jacket. Band Gale Ka coat were popular in India as a top half of the suit for formal occasions. In early 1960's, it was popularised in western Europe in America, where it was known as 'Nehru jacket' (Even though Pandit Jewrharlal Nehru never actually wore it himself!). One of earliest examples of Nehru jacket in Western popular culture was the outfit of Dr. No -  the villain from 1962 James Bond movie.

 By the mid-1960's, the Nehru jacket became a part of late Mod/early Hippie Carnaby Street look. 

The Who's Roger Daltrey (second left) wearing a nehru jacket appropriated for late-period Mod style, 1966

From 1967 Carnaby Street Modern Man catalogue - note the incorrect use of the term 'Kaftan'.

These clothes were a little bit of hybrid - they were too short to be proper Kaftans, and often too long to be proper Nehru jackets. Nevertheless, both terms were often used (just like Peacock style was often referred to as 'Regency', even though it hardly ever resembled actual Regency-era styles - but that's a subject for a different post).  These Nehru Jackets/Kaftans ere often designed with a generous use of Paisley, Liberty prints, various kinds of embroidery or 'Eastern' patterns (Indian, Chinese, Persian, there were even elements of Russian and Central European peasant dress) - a true mish-mash of styles and influences.
Here are my favourite examples:

Probably most famous one - The Beatles in Kaftans/Nehru Jackets designed by The Fool for Magical Mystery Tour.

Paul McCartney in 1967

 Paul outside his St. John's Wood home, 1967

John Lennon, 1967 

George Harrison, 1967

Hippies at the Woburn Abbey festival in England, 1967

John's Children modelling 'kaftans' designed by John Stephen, 1967

The Flowerpot Men, 1967

 British psych band The Flies, 1967

British psych band The Onyx, 1967

Rave magazine's resident model Johnny Rave, 1967

Kaftan which Peter Daltrey wore on the cover photo of Kaleidoscope's first album, Tangerine Dream, 1967

Davy Jones wearing the same kaftan.., 1967

Jimi Hendrix also had one...1967

Strawberry Alarm Clock, 1967

 Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz  of The Monkees, 1967

Legendary DJ John Peel, 1967

The Hollies, 1967

English hippies, 1968

 Jean Shrimpton and Paul Jones on the set of Privilege, 1967

Justin Hayward from The Moody Blues and Ian Gillian from Episode Six (who of course would soon move on to bigger things as a frontman of Deep Purple) modelling Carnaby Street 'kaftans' designed by John Stephen, 1967
Eric Burdon sporting 'kaftan' and Afghan coat - ultimate hippie combo - on the day of his wedding, 1968.

Dantalian's Chariot, 1968

British psych band The Mode outside Walthamstow Town Hall, 1968

Spanish psych band Los Kifers, 1968

Italian band I Nomadi, 1967

Italian psych band Le Orme, 1967

French pop star Johnny Hallyday, 1967

Keith Relf  of The Yardbirds, 1967

Jimmy Page, 1967

 Cliff Wade and The Roll Movement, 1968

 Actor David Hemmings with his wife Gayle Hunnicut, 1969

Ringo with Eva Aulin, 1968

Mick Jagger, 1967

Psychedelic kaftans/Nehru jackets went out of mainstream fashion around 1968. Very strongly associated with late 1960's, they are popular among revivalists. Clothing labels strongly influenced by 1960's fashions such as Art Gallery or Pretty Green, make kaftans and Nehru jackets today. 

Yours truly..

The 60's by Bill Harry
Hippie by Barry Miles
Anorak Thing , Smashingbird, Away From The Numbers, Afterglow
Sea Of Joy (I Don't Like Mods)