One hundred and twenty five

Marianne Faithfull

1964 by Gered Mankowitz
The National Portrait Gallery

Taken in 1964 this portrait sees Marianne Faithfull at the very beginning of her musical career. She had been discovered, was only just releasing her early hit singles, and had only just met the Rolling Stones (she had yet to run off with Mick Jagger in 1966 leaving her husband of ’65). Mankowitz’s depiction is pleasingly receptive to this take off, this teeming beginning, of both Faithfull’s musical and social life. She sits, arms spread like the wings of a bird, commanding of the space around her but languishing lazily; her head cocked to one side, she is dominating with ease. This is fitting for someone so ambitiously cool, who firmly established her worth in the sixties ‘scene’. Mankowitz was clearly no fool; he too was prominent throughout the sixties, photographing everyone from the Stones to Hendrix, and the rapport between these two figures is clear. Faithfull’s stare is piercing, her eyes large, her look expressive, a remarkable confrontation in one portrayed compositionally so small. Physically Faithfull doesn’t take up much of the space but her presence is everywhere — in the darkness of the alluring shadows that blur the bottom of the photo, to the twinkling of the statuesque lights that reflect across the bar that backlight her. Absorbing darkness and reflective surface make up the sumptuous texture throughout this photo, but Mankowitz makes Faithfull the centre of attention as the jacketed figure in the background illustrates, his look drawn in from the distance.


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Filed under Twentieth-Century

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