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Photograph - Vidal Sassoon Demonstrating his Skills, 1964
  • Vidal Sassoon Demonstrating his Skills, 1964
    Cowan, John, born 1929 - died 1975
  • Enlarge image

Vidal Sassoon Demonstrating his Skills, 1964

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1961 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cowan, John, born 1929 - died 1975 (photographers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gelatin-silver print

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Carolyn Cowan

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room 512M, case MX7, shelf TOP

Vidal Sassoon was a hairdresser who rose to fame in the 1960s for creating the ‘bob’ haircut, popularised by the fashion designer Mary Quant. Here he is photographed at work, his deft movements accentuated by deliberate blurring.

John Cowan was a leading fashion photographer during the 1960s. His photographs epitomised the playful, graphically dynamic style of commercial photography practised in London during the 1960s.

Physical description

Black and white photograph of hairdresser Vidal Sassoon at work, his brisk movements accentuated by deliberate blurring.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1961 (made)


Cowan, John, born 1929 - died 1975 (photographers)

Materials and Techniques

Gelatin-silver print


Width: 57 cm, Height: 38 cm

Descriptive line

Photograph showing Vidal Sassoon at work, by John Cowan, London, 1961

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Garner, Philippe. John Cowan, through the light barrier. Schirmer/Mosel, 1999.
Triple exposure: 3 photographers from the 60s. Ron Traeger. Michael Cooper. John Cowan, V&A, 1999

Labels and date

John Cowan captured the spirit and the explosive energy of the revolution in British culture which took shape in the early sixties. Self-taught, he had started working as a freelance photographer in 1958. Within a year his strong documentary and informal portrait work became the subject of a one-man exhibition, 'Through the Light Barrier'. Cowan soon found his metier as a fashion photographer. His 1962 meeting with model Jill Kennington sparked an exciting period of high-octane image-making for numerous magazines and newspapers.

In 1966 his studio provided the principal set for Antonioni's film, 'Blow-Up'. Cowan himself was prominent among the new generation of photographers whose lifestyles provided the inspiration for the film's central character. Cowan was ambitious and reckless.

The adventurous spirit that injected such energy into his pictures was ill-adapted to the practical aspects of sustaining his success. By the end of the decade he was in financial difficulties and falling out of step with the world of fashion. He left London for Milan, Paris and New York. Returning in 1970, he was unable to pick up the pieces of his career. His exhilarating work of the sixties was soon forgotten and his reputation eclipsed. [1999]

Subjects depicted



Fashion; Photographs


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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