Duran Duran Wiki
John Swannell
Background information
Born UK
Date 1946
Occupation Photographer
Years active 1960s-present
Associated acts Duran Duran
The Rolling Stones
Bryan Ferry

John Swannell (born 1946) is a British photographer, whose work has included Duran Duran photography for the Notorious album front cover.


John left school at sixteen, and spent a few years working in a Fleet Street darkroom, churning out thousands of prints that were then dispatched to photo agencies for syndication. He processed the film for the wedding of Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones in 1960 and hoped that one day he would find himself behind the lens.

During the 1960s after months of rejection, John won a position as one of the few assistants employed to work with the photographers commissioned by Vogue magazine. For a budding young photographer the role was a dream come true. His tasks were menial: setting up backdrops, arranging the lights, taking exposure readings, loading and changing the cameras; but the experience provided John with an unrivalled foundation in the day-to-day realities of fashion photography. Moreover, it finally enabled him to achieve the goal towards which he had worked since leaving school – to work with David Bailey. In 1969, the dream became reality when he was asked by David Bailey to leave Vogue Studios to become his full-time assistant.

When John joined David Bailey’s entourage at the age of twenty-one, he found himself swept up in a glamorous world of beautiful women, parties, global travel, and international celebrities, which included being chauffeured in a Rolls Royce to Stonehenge with the Rolling Stones to shoot an album cover.

After four years working for David Bailey he left, never forgetting Bailey’s kindness in advancing him a year’s salary on his departure. Baily also allowed him to use his studio free of charge. It was the contacts that he made during the Bailey years, more than the photographs, that in fact made his early career. He was in the enviable position of being a trusted face at Vogue House and, as a result, was given regular monthly commissions to photograph the consumer goods that illustrated the ‘shophound’ pages. Ten years later John was fielding more commissions than he could commit to.

In 1986 Duran Duran's Notorious album front cover featured his photograph of the band.

In 1989 John had a one man show at The Royal Academy in Edinburgh, followed in 1990 by an exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. In July of the same year The Royal Photographic Society held a retrospective of his fashion work.

In 1993 John Swannell was awarded a Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society; he was one of the youngest members to have achieved this status at the time. In November 1994, Diana, The Princess of Wales personally commissioned John to photograph her together with her sons.

From November 1996 to March 1997 John had a one man show of his portraits at The National Portrait Gallery in London to celebrate the publication of his book 'Twenty Years On' which are now held in their archives.

John photographed HRH The Princess Royal for her fortieth and fiftieth birthdays. The Royal Mail commissioned John to photograph the Duke and Duchess of Wessex for a stamp celebrating their wedding and for the celebration stamp marking the occasion of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's 100th birthday in 2001. In 2002 John was one of the photographers asked to photograph HM the Queen to celebrate her Golden Jubliee. The images were used in the press and exhibited at Windsor Castle. The National Portrait Gallery in London has over fifty of his photographs, and The V&A, The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Royal Photographic Society now have many of John's works in their permanent collections.

A selection of John Swannell's work[]

A selection of books published by John[]

  • Fine Lines (1982)
  • Naked Landscape (1986)
  • Twenty Years On (1996)
  • John Swannell Nudes (2007)