John French was an English fashion and portrait photographer. He was born in Edmonton, London, in 1907. French originally trained and worked as a commercial artist, becoming a photographic director in an advertising studio just before World War II, during which he served as an officer in the Grenadier Guards. In 1948 he founded his own photography studio. Working originally with the Daily Express he pioneered a new form of fashion photography suited to reproduction in newsprint, involving where possible reflected natural light and low contrast. He also undertook portrait photography. French was one of London’s top fashion photographers of the 1950s and 1960s. He devoted much attention to the set and posing of his models, but left the actual triggering of the shutter to assistants, amongst whom were Terence Donovan and David Bailey.
The models he worked with included the most famous of the time and many were debutantes who went on to become well-known society figures. John persuaded the art editors of the national press to use his flawlessly lit images of top models and his work appeared in virtually every newspaper and magazine.
After his death the John French's archive was donated by his wife, the fashion journalist Vere Denning, to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
He was once described as "the man who brought a new glamour to fashion photography".
John French essentially captured elegance. Unlike other photographers of the early 1960s he had a certain magic, incorporating both a sense of 1950s refinement whilst also showcasing contemporary 1960s style and muses - Jean Shrimpton being just one.
Through photography of French, fashion is free of static poses, imposed by the clichés of the time dictated by Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, to focus on freedom of expression and on the naturalness of the shots. His images are characterized by a compositional research tending to perfection, with an obvious care and attention to detail and the poses of the models within the structure. Using a black and white sweet, the British photographer invents an innovative style and fresh that exploits the natural lights to create structured lines essential that emphasize the contrasts and chiaroscuro.