David Hamilton (photographer)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

David Hamilton (15 April 1933 – 25 November 2016) was a British photographer best known for his nude images of young women, photographed through a blurry soft focus described as vaseline on the lens.


Early life

Hamilton grew up in London. His schooling was interrupted by World War II. As an evacuee, he spent some time in the countryside of Dorset, which inspired some of his work. After the war, Hamilton returned to London and finished his schooling.

Career and later life

His artistic skills began to emerge during a job at an architect's office. At age 20, he went to Paris, where he worked as graphic designer for Peter Knapp of Elle magazine. After becoming known and successful, he was hired away from Elle by Queen magazine in London as art director. Hamilton soon realised his love for Paris, however, and after returning there became the art director of Printemps, the city's largest department store. Hamilton began photographing commercially while still employed, and the dreamy, grainy style of his images quickly brought him success.

His photographs were in demand by other magazines such as Réalités, Twen and Photo. By the end of the 1960s, Hamilton's work had a recognisable style. His further success included many dozens of photographic books with combined sales well into the millions, five feature films, countless magazine publishings and museum and gallery exhibitions. In December 1977, Images Gallery in Manhattan showed his photographs, at the same time that Bilitis was released.

His soft focus style also came back into fashion at Vogue, Elle and other high-class fashion magazines from around 2003. Hamilton was in a relationship with Mona Kristensen, who was a model in many of his early photobooks and made her screen debut in Bilitis. Later he married Gertrude Hamilton, who co-designed his book The Age of Innocence, but they have since divorced amicably and she lives in New York working as a painter.

Hamilton divided his time between Saint-Tropez and Paris. Since 2005 he had been enjoying a revival in popularity. In 2006 two new books were released: David Hamilton, a collection of captioned photographs, and Erotic Tales, which contains Hamilton's fictional short stories.


As much of Hamilton's work depicts early-teen girls, often nude, he was the subject of some controversy including child pornography allegations, similar to those which the work of Sally Mann and Jock Sturges have attracted. Several of Hamilton's books were banned in South Africa for moral reasons.

In the late 1990s, conservative Christian groups in America protested unsuccessfully against bookstores that stocked Hamilton's photography books. As Chris Warmoll, writing for The Guardian in 2005, commented "Hamilton's photographs have long been at the forefront of the 'is it art or pornography?' debate."

In 2005, a man was convicted for being in possession of 19,000 images of children, including photos by Hamilton. The images were found to be in the lowest indecency rating. In response, Glenn Holland, Hamilton's spokesman, said: "We are deeply saddened and disappointed by this, as David is one of the most successful art photographers the world has ever known. His books have sold millions". Following the conviction, a member of the Surrey Police in Britain asserted that possessing Hamilton books was now illegal in the UK. Surrey Police later made a formal apology for this statement and admitted that no legally binding decision had been made on the work of David Hamilton.

In 2010, a man was convicted of level 1 child pornography for owning four books, including Hamilton's The Age of Innocence as well as Still Time by Sally Mann, which he purchased from a bookstore in Walthamstow, London. His conviction was overturned on appeal in 2011, with the judge calling his conviction "very unfair" and criticising the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for prosecuting him. The judge concluded that "If the [CPS] wishes to test whether the pictures in the books are indecent, the right way to deal with the matter is by way of prosecuting the publisher or retailer – not the individual purchaser."

Rape allegations in France

On 22 October 2016, in the French talk-show Salut les Terriens! on TNT C8 channel, the host Thierry Ardisson named David Hamilton as the alleged rapist of now radio RTL presenter Flavie Flament. According to Flament the acts were committed when she was 13 years old, in Cap d'Agde, Hérault, South of France. She mentions them in her novel La consolation, a romanticized story based on her alleged life experiences.


On 25 November 2016, Hamilton died in his Paris apartment at age 83. Some media reports suggested he killed himself. Reuters reported that a police source told them that Hamilton had committed suicide and local media reported that prescription drugs were found nearby. However, so far the circumstances of his death are unclear.

Selected bibliography


  • Dreams of a Young Girl (1971)
  • Sisters (1972)
  • The Dance (1972)
  • Galeria Old Home (1974, Private)
  • The Best of David Hamilton (1976)
  • Private Collection (1976)
  • Bilitis (1977)
  • Souvenirs (1978)
  • The Young Girl (1978)
  • Secret Garden (1980)
  • Tender Cousins (1981)
  • Silk Wind (1982)
  • A Summer in St. Tropez (1983)
  • Jun Miho (1983)
  • Homage to Painting or Images (1984)
  • Maiko Minami (1987)
  • Venice (1989)
  • Flowers (1990)
  • Blooming Minayo: 28 September (1992)
  • Twenty Five Years of an Artist (1993)
  • The Fantasies of Girls (1994)
  • The Age of Innocence (1995)
  • Harem: Asami and Friends (1995)
  • A Place In The Sun (1996)
  • Holiday Snapshots (1999)
  • David Hamilton (2006)
  • Erotic Tales (2007)


  • Souvenirs (1974)
  • Flower Girls (1979)
  • Shadows of a Summer (1979)
  • The White Pebble (1980)
  • The Great Silver Photography (1984)


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "David Hamilton (photographer)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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