Publisher: Darren Coffield
Over the years, Soho’s Colony Room Club has become synonymous with the artistic milieu of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. It was the American painter Ron Kitaj who coined that awkward term ‘School of London’ to describe the group of painters that frequented the club. Less well documented are the group of photographers who were equally as important to 20th Century British culture and frequented her establishment. For the club not only watered the important artists, writers and poets of post war London, but also gave succour to many photographers, who found themselves surrounded by a plethora of potential subjects.
By its very nature, being a private drinking club, the Colony was a refuge. People went there to evade the public gaze, since the unofficial club motto of, “What happens in the club stays in the club”, gave the members some sense of security when indulging in the most outrageous behaviour. The last thing that anyone wanted was to see someone wielding a camera. In the club’s earliest days, the glamourous and uncluttered interior was shot by the artist, Nigel Henderson, but these photographic records are rare during the first four decades of the club. For although the proprietor Muriel Belcher was not averse to being painted by Bacon or Freud, during her reign permission to photograph inside her sanctuary was often withheld.
The Colony’s photographers snapped the great and the good from Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace to the dispossessed inhabiting the slums of London’s East End. They covered the whole spectrum of possible photographic subject matter, and pushed the boundaries of both taste and technology, whether it be the unflinching portraits of John Deakin, the ‘Dirty Tricks’ of Angus Forbes, the photojournalism of Daniel Farson or the uncanny eye of Michael Woods.
This is a catalogue of the photographers who drank in Soho's infamous Colony Room Club: Baron, Bruce Bernard, Jeffrey Bernard, John Deakin, Angus Forbes, Amelia Troubridge, Carla Borel, Pascal Latra, Craig Easton, Michael Woods, Daniel Farson, Harry Diamond, Neal Slavin, Dennis Rolfe etc. The book accompanies the exhibition, Tales from the Colony Room: Art and Bohmia, curated by Darren Coffield.