British Photographer David Hamilton Found Dead in Paris

Katya Foreman
WWD



PARIS — British photographer David Hamilton has died at his Paris apartment at the age of 83, a police source confirmed.

The cause of death could not immediately be learned, while some reports suggested it was a suicide. 

Hamilton was found unresponsive in his home in the 6th arrondissement here on Friday by a neighbor who alerted emergency services, French radio station Europe 1 reported.

The photographer, who had lived much of his life in France, had recently been hit by string of accusations of sexual assault and rape from a number of women, including French radio host Flavie Flament. Last month, Flament released an autobiographical novel entitled “La Consolation,” (The Consolation, in English) in which she alleged she was raped by a famous photographer in the southern French beach resort town of Cap d’Agde in 1987, at age 13. The book’s cover is a photograph of Flament as a young girl taken by Hamilton.

In a video released on Nov. 18 on the Web site of French news weekly L’Obs, Flament confirmed she was referring to Hamilton. The photographer four days later denied the allegations, telling Agence France-Presse: “I have done nothing improper,” and said that he only took a portrait of Flament, “29 or 30 years ago.”

Known for his soft-focus, romantic images of nude adolescent girls in classical poses that nodded to art history, the photographer, who rose to fame in the Seventies and Eighties as a fashion photographer, was best known for helping forge the romantic image of Nina Ricci with his iconic fragrance campaigns. They included his Degas-style portraits of ballerinas for the L’Air du Temps scent and one of a trio of young girls posing as The Three Graces, a nod to the house logo created by Eliane Bonabel in 1936 inspired by Botticelli’s famous work, “Allegory of Spring.”

Hamilton also published a number of photographic books, which sold in the millions, including “The Age of Innocence,” “Tender Cousins” and “Sisters.” He produced five films and staged exhibitions in galleries around the world, including his show at Images Gallery in 1977 in New York, which was held concurrently with the release of his first film, “Bilitis.” In 2006, he released “Erotic Tales,” a book of fictional short stories that was only published in French and German.

Hamilton also liked to photograph landscapes and nature, while personalities captured by the photographer included ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev.

Born in London in 1933, Hamilton moved to Paris at the age of 20 to seek work as a graphic designer. He landed a job at Elle magazine under Peter Knapp going on a few years later to work as art director of the Printemps department store. As a side project, he took up commercial photography and honed his distinctive blurring technique, going on to become a respected art photographer in the late Sixties. Bathed in a signature, back-lit golden light, many of Hamilton’s portraits were taken around his holiday home in Ramatuelle in the Bay of Saint-Tropez on the Côte d’Azur.

Over the years, some questioned if Hamilton’s work bordered on pornography. In 2005, in a landmark British ruling by Guildford Crown Court in England, his images of naked women and girls were officially branded indecent. “Anyone who has David Hamilton’s books can be arrested for the possession of indecent photographs,” DC Simon Ledger of Surrey Police told the Guardian newspaper after the ruling.

Hamilton, who had no children, married twice, to Mona Kristensen, one of his favorite models, and later Gertrude Hamilton, who co-designed his book “The Age of Innocence,” from whom he had an amicable divorce.

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