Photographer who took famous shot of Christine Keeler;
Born: June 16, 1925; Died: September 3, 2013.
Lewis Morley, who has died aged 88, was a photographer and artist who was at the heart of the 1960s cultural revolution: his studio was at Peter Cook's Establishment Club, he shot Cook and Dudley Moore as they rehearsed for the first Beyond the Fringe, and at the height of his career he took portraits of many of the men and women who symbolised the great cultural and artistic changes that were happening in British society including Barry Humphries, Joe Orton and Maggie Smith.
His most famous shot, however, will always be the picture of Christine Keeler, naked and sitting astride a chair. It was a beautiful and titillating picture taken at the height of the Profumo scandal and it made Morley even more well-known than he was, although over the years it came to be a burden for him.
He once mocked the picture by photographing himself sitting in the same pose but at the same time he knew how important it was to his career and fame.
He was born in Hong Kong to an English father and Chinese mother; his father, also Lewis, worked for Boots the chemist and was the chief pharmacist in the colony. During the Second World War when the Japanese occupied Hong Kong, the family were forcibly relocated to the Stanley Internment camp and had to live separately (men and women were in different parts of the camp). The young Lewis worked in the camp's kitchen.
After the end of the war, the family was repatriated to London where Morley did his two years' national service with the Royal Air Force. His ambition was to be a painter and after three years at the Twickenham Art School, in the early 1950s he moved to Paris to study life drawing at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. He married fellow student Patricia Clifford and their son Lewis was born in 1957.
By this time, he was getting work with Photography Magazine and by 1958 was working for Tatler. The following year, the director Lindsay Anderson asked him to do production shots at the Royal Court and it was here that he photographed many of the rising stars of the decade including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Peter O'Toole.
Morley's trick was always to try to catch the subject when they least expected it; to get the unguarded moment. He was also willing to experiment with location and when he was asked to photograph Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller while they were working on their revue Beyond the Fringe, he decided to take them out of the theatre and into the street. At the time, it was a striking break with convention.
After the Beyond the Fringe shoot, Cook offered Morley studio space at his Establishment Club and it was here that Keeler was photographed in a 30-minute session. The picture was taken in May 1963 when the Profumo affair was at its scandalous height; Keeler had been having an affair with John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, and the Russian spy Yevgeni Ivanov.
The picture of Keeler was to have been used to promote a film about the affair (it never got made) and the promoters wanted her to do the picture naked. Keeler, who was 19 at the time, was reluctant but Morley convinced her when he told her he would turn his back and allow her to get in the chair with the back covering her torso.
Almost immediately, the picture became famous and its fame has barely faded since, although both photographer and subject came to resent it because they felt that it came to define - and to some extent trap - them both. Keeler said that at times over the years, she hated the picture.
Morley felt the same and resented the fact that the photograph had overshadowed his other work (he also worked on reportage including the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in London in the late 1960s)., although he was happy to extend its fame by photographing other famous people in the same pose, notably the playwright Joe Orton, the broadcaster David Frost and the comedian Barry Humphries.
Humphries became a friend of Morley's and a fan of his work. In the catalogue of a 2006 exhibition of his photographs, he called Morley the quintessential photographer of the age. "His lens does not merely record the appearance of things," he wrote, " but is an instrument of his compassion and his intellectual curiosity. He is more interested in other people than himself."
In the early 1970s, Morley moved to Australia with his wife and son, partly to make a break with the decade that had made him famous although he once joked that he moved to Australia to get away from the 1960s only to discover that the 1960s had just arrived there. For the next 16 years, he worked on commercial work for magazines.
The National Portrait Gallery in London staged a major exhibition of his work in 1989 and his memoir, Black and White Lies, appeared in 1992. He was appointed to the Order of Australia in 2010. His archive, which includes tens of thousands of photographs and personal papers, has been donated to the National Media Museum in Bradford.
His wife predeceased him and he is survived by his son.
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