Streets of London past: Al Vandenberg’s ‘On a Good Day’

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Published this month in collaboration between Stanley Barker and Erick Franck Fine Art, ‘On a Good Day’ celebrates the work of photographer and art director Al Vandenberg. An American settling in 1960s London, following decades saw Vandenberg use his lens to capture the theatre of everyday life, as played out in the capital’s streets. In fifty black and white images, the book pays homage to this pioneer of street casting, and a city now largely changed.

Vandenberg was born to Dutch parents in 1932, and was raised by an English foster family in Boston. After serving in the Korean War with the US Military, Vandenberg enrolled to study photography in New York. His classmates at the time included such luminaries as Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch and Richard Avedon; non the less Vandenberg’s photographic work was to veer far from the glamorous pages of fashion magazines, instead focusing on the mean streets of Manhattan and the struggle of ethnic minorities. Following a highly successful stint as an art director, Vandenberg relocated to London in 1964. True to form, one of his commissions in his new home took to the heart of the swinging city, collaborating with The Beatles for the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is from the 1970s onwards that the American expat returned to urban streets for inspiration, a body of work now suitably remembered in ‘On a Good Day’.

Facing the camera lens straight on, Vandenberg’s sitters make for highly personal subjects, dressed in their everyday best. Leafing through this luxuriously produced book, we discovered London’s past and the city’s actors. This includes Motorhead’s Lemmy and the quintessential Punk pin up Jordan, much copied shop assistant at Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s SEX kingdom on the Chelsea’s King’s Road. FB

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