Tony McGee is a British photographer and filmmaker, whose career spans over four decades. Living in Chelsea, London, he became a fashion photographer at the age of sixteen and by seventeen he had shot covers for Harpers Bazaar and Vogue.
McGee had a close relationship and the opportunity to work with renowned photographers such as David Bailey and Irving Penn. It was McGee’s ultimate goal to move towards the cutting edge fashion photography world of the 1970s. He even had the opportunity to assist the superstar photographer, Helmut Newton in projects in Paris and St. Tropez and worked with him for a period of 18 months in the mid 1970s. He first met Helmut at MAFIA, an influential advertising agency in Paris, who spotted McGee’s talent and soon also started to work with him.
At the age of eighteen, following a chance meeting with the Editor and Chief of Bazaar Magazine Willy Landels and public relations consultant Lynne Franks, McGee was assigned his first cover shoot for Harpers and Queen. A year later, he was shooting his 12th magazine cover; McGee travelled internationally photographing for publications such as British and American Vogue, Vogue Italia, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Sunday Times Magazine, Rolling Stone and the New Yorker Magazine. By the time Tony McGee was twenty one he had worked for most magazines around the world producing more than forty covers to his credits as well as numerous advertising campaigns. In 1980, McGee was even awarded Best British Fashion Photographer of the Year.
Since the 1980s, McGee photographed various different notable celebrities, including the iconic fashion model Kate Moss. Tony was commissioned to shoot a photo story with the boxer, Luke Massey for Italian Men’s Vogue, and at the last minute, Sarah Doukas at Storm Model Agency contacted him and asked if he would see a recent signing – the 14 year old Kate Moss. In a moment of inspiration, Tony decided to take both Luke and Kate to a natural light location he knew of in his 280Se 3.5 convertible Mercedes with a navy interior and special series steering wheel, recently purchased by David Hockney. McGee’s photograph of Kate Moss was one of the first professional photographs ever taken of Kate Moss.
McGee was later introduced to the world of rock and roll photography and worked with the likes of Roxy Music, David Bowie, George Michael and Tina Turner. He had a particular special bond with David Bowie and worked with him a great deal, and photographed one of Bowie’s most famous cover for Face Magazine, which was regarded by GQ as being the most the influential magazine cover of the 1980s.
McGee first met Bowie in the London home of the impresario, Michael White, at a private cocktail party in 1982. McGee was introduced to David as a bright and young emerging talent in the London/Paris fashion photography circuit by Coco Schwab and Jerry Hall. Tony and David immediately got on, building the beginnings of a friendship that would span more than 30 years.
“David Bowie is an icon, probably the most inventive musician during the last 80 years, to have worked with him on such a personal level was an enormous honour. The collection of images are ‘Unseen’, and they show David in his private ‘off camera’ moments” – Tony McGee
A few days after their first meeting Tony was contacted by David’s record company and the first of many photographic shoots was arranged. Their first collaboration was to shoot all of the publicity for the ‘Let’s Dance’ Tour, 1983, and their photographic relationship continued well into the 90s.
This incredible friendship between the two is beautifully captured in the intimate portraits that Tony took of David, a selection of which are available to view at our upcoming exhibition. A selection of original contact sheets from a number of shoots with David, which will also be displayed at our exhibition. Tony would personally take the contact sheets to David after the shoot, who would then sign off on the images by placing gold stars on the image of his choice. These contact sheets and photographs highlight the trust David had in Tony, and the true remarkable bond between these two creative individuals. One of the images of David Bowie taken by Tony McGee is in the permanent collection in the National Portrait Gallery.
Read more about Tony McGee’s exhibition David Bowie “UNSEEN”
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