ABOUT

KEN

“He is a bit like the Indiana Jones of Photography for me […] an adventurer, a pioneer, a photographic dynamo, an original.”

Graham Cornthwaite

Photographer & Friend

Ken Griffiths was born in New Zealand in 1945. Chosen as one of the special few students at London’s Royal College of Art’s new photography program, he crossed the ocean in 1969 and arrived in London to study at one of the most respectable art schools in the world. Two years later, he had won the Sunday Telegraph’s 'Young Photographer of the Year' award, marking the start of a brilliant career in advertising and photojournalism. Throughout his career, he contributed to a range of periodicals, from The Sunday Times, Traveller, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vanity Fair to name a few. 

Ken always stayed true to old-fashioned photographic equipment: a Gandolfi plate camera and large-format film. He never gave in to the lure of digital photography, believing his real purpose was to record only “what is true.” 

His adventurous spirit and lust for life meant he travelled the world exploring landscapes and portraying lives, searching for the ordinary and extraordinary. His passion for the craft is seen in each breath-taking and honest picture he took, some of which have been showcased at The National Portrait Gallery and The V&A.

Accompanied by a sense of humour that could make anyone feel at ease regardless of their culture or background, Ken was known for giving a great sense of humanity to all of his subjects. Whether they were a rock star or a homeless person, British Royalty or landmine survivors, Ken treated every one he photographed with respect and honour.

His memory and work will live on.

"It’s a matter of selection in advance instead of selection afterwards. With your standard 35 mil camera, you’re often tempted just to spray off shots and do the choosing later. With a camera that makes just one image at a time, you have to plan out what you want to do carefully, and you have to really want to do it… It’s a completely different attitude, but one that appeals to me a lot. Say you’re driving in a rainstorm and see something that you think you might want to shoot. With a 35 mil you’ll just stop, jump out, shoot and get straight back in the car. With a Gandolfi you know that you have to be reconciled to a soaking. But the image will probably be that much more concentrated, that much more special [large format cameras teach discipline and patience]. And the sheer clarity of the image can just be astonishing."

Ken Griffiths, 1989

© Ken Griffiths Bureau 2021

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