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One of the most significant photographers of the 1960s, Lewis Morley took the iconic photograph of a naked Christine Keeler sitting backwards on an Arne Jacobsen chair as she basked in her 15-minutes of fame following the Profumo Affair. The image now is constantly referenced: Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, once sent Morley a poster featuring Homer Simpson (in underpants) in the Keeler pose.
“It’s not easy being the creator of a so-called icon,” says Morley. “This is my protest, a statement. It’s certainly not me basking in reflected glory.”
The photograph of Keeler has in fact begun to feel like a millstone around his neck. “I’m just embarking on yet another legal wrangle over it,” says Morley. “Because it’s in the public domain, like the Che Guevara poster, nobody bothers to check who they need to approach concerning copyright. There are currently two buzz words: revolution and scandal. Every time revolution is mentioned they use the Che Guevara poster and every time scandal is mentioned up comes Christine Keeler.”
Morley took Mill stone at home using a tripod and a bulb release to expose, activated by his foot. As usual, he used one lighting source – in this case a halogen portable spot. He purposely used a rough backdrop that leaves the door and shelves visible behind. “I didn’t want to make it into an art piece,” says Morley. “There is something tacky about the background, which I like, because the whole thing surrounding the Christine Keeler photograph now feels tacky.”
Born in Hong Kong in 1925, Morley came to Australia in 1971. He studied painting in Paris and early in his career exhibited painting, sculpture and assemblages in London and Sydney. In a career spanning over 40 years, he has worked in portraiture, theatre, fashion and magazine photography and publishing. He has taken portraits of an extraordinary range of people including Salvador Dalí, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Tom Jones, Clint Eastwood and Beth Orton. His photography has been exhibited in shows around the world including retrospectives at the National Portrait Gallery, London, 1989; the State Library of NSW, 1993; the National Theatre, London, 1999 and at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2003.