The announcement of David Hamilton’s death and the circumstances surrounding it came as a shock to many people.
David Hamilton with muse and model Mona Kristensen
In life, David Hamilton divided public opinion. Many saw him as one of the great fashion photographers of the late 20th century. Others, a smaller group, had a less flattering view.
David Hamilton’s legacy will be forever tainted by the nature of his death. His suicide in Paris followed allegations by one of his young models, Flavie Flement, that he had raped and sexually abused a number of his young models.
Naturally enough, this will prove grist to the mill for the Hamilton haters.
We have an ambiguous relationship with artists who have dubious sexual reputations. Woody Allen is an excellent example. While he has strenuously denied any allegations of impropriety, many people regard his relationship with his stepdaughter as slightly creepy.
He certainly attracted a number of beautiful young muses, none of whom have ever said anything against him. Well, except Mia Farrow and she was pretty vitriolic.
But in Allen’s case, as will be the situation in Hamilton’s case, the evidence of misconduct was circumstantial and debated.
One of the inherent difficulties in this type of situation is that the artistic achievements of the alleged perpetrator are often concatenated with the nature of the accusations.
Hamilton is likely to suffer the same fate as Alice in Wonderland creator Lewis Carroll. There is a strong circumstantial case to be argued that Charles Dodgson (Carroll’s real name) was a pedophile.
Carroll with Alice Liddell (aged 7)
And it’s difficult to see much “artistic merit” in his photos of naked young girls.
However, it’s a pretty grey area as I argued in Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) a paedophile, a pornographer, or both ?
Hamilton’s legacy is likely to be overshadowed by the nature of his death and the allegations that immediately preceded it.
Hamilton created many of the iconic images of the 1960s and 70s.
His bored and unhappy looking models got younger over time.
Perhaps, as time went by everybody was getting a bit jaded.
The sad thing about any discussion of David Hamilton’s artistic legacy will now be forever tainted with a debate over whether or not he was a paedophile.