David Hamilton (photographer)

David Hamilton

Hamilton in 2011
Born (1933-04-15)15 April 1933
London, England
Died 25 November 2016(2016-11-25) (aged 83)
Paris, France
Cause of death Suicide (asphyxia)
Body discovered Paris, France

David Hamilton (15 April 1933 – 25 November 2016) was an English photographer and film director best known for his nude images of young women and girls.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] Hamilton began photographing commercially while still employed, and the dreamy, grainy style of his images quickly brought him success.[4]

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.[4] At that time art critic Gene Thornton wrote in The New York Times that they reveal "the kind of ideal that regularly was expressed in the great paintings of the past". Hamilton has said that his work looks for "the candor of a lost paradise". In his book Contemporary Photographers curator Christian Caujolle wrote that Hamilton worked only with two fixed devices: "a clear pictorial intention and a latent eroticism, ostensibly romantic, but asking for trouble".[5] In 1995 Hamilton said that people "have made contradiction of nudity and purity, sensuality and innocence, grace and spontaneity. I try to harmonize them, and that's my secret and the reason for my success".[4] Besides his main theme of depicting young women Hamilton made pictures of flowers, men, landscapes, farm animals, pigeons and photographic still lifes of fresh fruits. Several of his photographs look alike oil paintings. Most of his work gives an impression of timelessness because of the absence of cars, modern buildings and advertisement boards. In 1976 Denise Couttès explained Hamilton's phenomenal success on page 6 of The Best of David Hamilton. She wrote that his images expressed "escapism. People can only escape from the violence and cruelty of the modern world through dreams and nostalgia".[4]

His soft focus style came back into fashion at Vogue, Elle and other fashion magazines from around 2003. Hamilton was in a relationship with Mona Kristensen[4], 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.[6] but they divorced amicably

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.[4]


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.[7]

In the late 1990s, conservative Christian groups in America protested unsuccessfully against bookstores that stocked Hamilton's photography books.[8] 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."[9]

Hamilton in 2012

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".[9]

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."[10][11][12]

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 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.[1][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20] Flament's brother has called certain revelations in her book into question.[21] On 22 November 2016, Hamilton issued a statement threatening legal action against his accusers.[22][23] When contacted by the French press agency AFP, Hamilton declared that he was not to blame. "I didn't do anything wrong", he affirmed, while confirming only that he took a portrait of Flament, "29 or 30 years ago". Flament put the portrait on the cover of La consolation.[3][24]

On 17 November 2016, the weekly news magazine L'Obs published anonymous accounts by three other former models who claimed to have been raped by Hamilton.[25][26][27] One day later Flament confirmed that the alleged rapist in her book was Hamilton.[28]


On the afternoon of 25 November 2016, Hamilton was found dead in his Paris apartment with a plastic bag over his head. Medications were found in his bathroom.[29][30] The autopsy identified asphyxiation as the cause of death. So far suicide is the leading hypothesis in the investigation.[1][3][31][32][33][34]





See also


  1. 1 2 3 "UK photographer David Hamilton dies, aged 83". BBC News. 26 November 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  2. Hamilton, David (1993). Twenty Five Years of an Artist. Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1-85410-266-9.
  3. 1 2 3 "Photographer David Hamilton found dead in Paris". The Guardian. 25 November 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hinton, Perry (11 April 2016). "Remembrance of things past: The cultural context and the rise and fall in the popularity of photographer David Hamilton". Taylor and Francis. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  5. David Hamilton, photographer known for nude images of girls, dies at 83, The New York Times, 28 november 2016
  6. Hamilton, David (1995). The Age of Innocence. Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1-85410-304-8.
  7. "Censored publications – Hamilton, David". Beacon for Freedom of Expression. National Library of Norway. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  8. "Barnes & Noble Vows to Stock Art Books Despite Indictments". The New York Times. 20 February 1998.
  9. 1 2 Warmoll, Chris (14 July 2005). "Hamilton's naked girl shots ruled 'indecent'". Culture. London: The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2005.
  10. Sheerer, Hans. "Child Pornography Conviction Tossed For Possessing Books Available on Amazon.com". Justice Denied. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  11. Oates, John (24 February 2011). "Conviction overturned for abuse images bought from bookshop". The Register. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  12. "Judge criticises CPS for prosecuting man for pictures available in bookshops". The Telegraph. 24 February 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  13. "David Hamilton, le photographe des jeunes filles en fleur, est accusé d'avoir abusé de Flavie Flament".
  14. "Une époque où l'on faisait poser nues des ados". 25 November 2016.
  15. BFMTV. "Flavie Flament violée, qui est David Hamilton le photographe accusé ? (vidéo)".
  16. "Affaire Flavie Flament: David Hamilton, agresseur présumé et photographe amateur de jeunes filles dénudées". 24 October 2016.
  17. "Acusan al fotógrafo David Hamilton de violar a las protagonistas de sus desnudos". 20 October 2016.
  18. Roca, Mireya (23 October 2016). "David Hamilton, retratado por la sospecha".
  19. "Viol de Flavie Flament : le photographe David Hamilton se défend".
  20. "David Hamilton, le photographe accusé par les internautes d'avoir violé Flavie Flament s'explique".
  21. Détienne, illustration Augustin. "Le frère de Flavie Flament remet en cause certaines révélations de son livre".
  22. "British photographer David Hamilton found dead in Paris, as his alleged rape victims say he has escaped justice".
  23. "Alleged rape victim 'horrified' after death of photographer David Hamilton". Sky News. 26 November 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  24. "Accusé de viol, David Hamilton veut porter plainte contre Flavie Flament".
  25. "David Hamilton, le chasseur de jeunes filles". L'Obs (in French). Retrieved 2016-11-27.
  26. Louis, Paul (2016-11-17). "Après Flavie Flament, trois nouvelles accusations de viol contre le photographe David Hamilton". Le Figaro (in French). ISSN 0182-5852. Retrieved 2016-11-27.
  27. "Affaire Flavie Flament : d'autres femmes accusent David Hamilton de viol". L'Obs (in French). Retrieved 2016-11-27.
  28. "Flavie Flament confirme : l'homme qu'elle accuse de viol est bien David Hamilton". L'Obs (in French). Retrieved 2016-11-27.
  29. Suicide de David Hamilton, la piste du suicide privilégiée par les enquêteurs, La Parisienne, 26 november 2016
  30. Suicide de David Hamilton: le rapport d’autopsie a parlé, Gala, 28 november 2016
  31. David Hamilton, photographer celebrated as artist and condemned as pornographer, dies at 83, The Washington Post, 30 November 2016
  32. "British photographer David Hamilton found dead in Paris".
  33. "David Hamilton, mort d'un photographe controversé | PM". PM (in French). 2016-11-26. Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  34. Controversial photographer Hamilton committed suicide in Paris, police say, France 24, 26 November 2016

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