On Saturday 21 June 2008, from 4pm until midnight, The Move and Procol Harum's legendary photographer Robert Davidson will stage his debut exhibition at the House of St Barnabas-in-Soho, London W1D 4NQ (Manette Street entrance next to the Borderline) which will bring together the best of his work from 1960 to 2008.
Entitled “Midsummer Madness” – a “fun-raising” event with photos, music, refreshments and bar, Robert will be in attendance and signed, deluxe limited edition prints of his work will be for sale. Proceeds are going to The House of St Barnabas to aid their work with the homeless and those in crisis (registered charity No 207242).
Born in Dundee in 1942, Robert Davidson took what he calls “early retirement” at age 17 and left school for Paris. While there, he met and was heavily influenced by legendary 60s Time / Life photographer Emil Cadoo. Robert returned to London two years later and began portrait and fashion photography, taking the first test shots of Lesley Hornby (soon to become known to the world as Twiggy).
In 1965, Robert became friends with Tony Secunda, the infamous Svengali and manager of The Moody Blues, Procol Harum and The Move. Appointed Secunda’s official photographer, Robert worked with The Action, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Arthur Brown, among others.
He was responsible for many memorable images, including The Move’s “Psychedelicamania” riot at the Roundhouse in 1966 (who can forget the images of Carl Wayne wielding an axe) and the Flowers in the Rain court case during which Prime Minister Harold Wilson sued Secunda and the band (and Davidson himself was arrested). Probably the most famous photo Robert took during this period was the iconic image of Frank Zappa on a toilet in the Royal Garden Hotel in London.
Constant battles with management and record companies to pay royalties and an incident involving a London gangland member crucified on his studio door convinced Robert he should leave the music business. Soon afterward, all his negatives and prints – except two unpublished images of The Rolling Stones and Brian Jones – were destroyed.
Accepting a timely job offer in fashion and location photography, Robert left for a new life in New York. Later refused re-entry to the USA after his involvement in an anti-Vietnam demonstration, Robert found himself homeless and unemployed. On a whim, he travelled to India to study horticulture, eventually returning to the UK to run a small landscaping business where he met and began a friendship with the writer Doris Lessing.
A growing desire to help others saw Robert leave his business to train as a counsellor, specialising in bereaved children. He became so successful he was soon managing the first rural Crisis Centre set up by the National Health Service. Disagreements with the NHS hierarchy over “political correctness” caused Robert to resign, and for a time, he became homeless.
Back to full health and recently returned to London to live, Robert has been busy with his new photography and also recovering copies of his lost work from the 60s. Wishing to help others who have experienced homelessness and crises, he made contact with The House of St Barnabas-in-Soho three months ago.
Now, thanks to the kindness of the press, musicians and EMI Records in returning many of his photos – and on the eve of his 65th birthday – Robert Davidson is coming out of retirement for this unique and very special event which will be a must-see for any Move, Procol Harum and sixties music fan.
Location: The Chapel and Garden of The House of St Barnabas-in- Soho, London, W1 – Manette Street entrance off Charing Cross Road (next to the Borderline).
For further information: www.atthehouse.org.uk and www.davidsononline.co.uk
Have a look at Procol Harum set-lists | More about The Procol Harum Project | PHP's own website