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John Deakin (1912–1972) was an Englishmarker portrait photographer, best known for his work centered around members of Francis Bacon's Soho inner circle. Doubting the validity and status of photography as an art form, Deakin neglected his photographs, and the majority have been destroyed or damaged. A chronic alcoholic, Deakin died in obscurity and poverty, though his reputation has latterly grown.

He was born in Bebingtonmarker on the Wirralmarker, and attended West Kirby Grammar School. Though he had wanted to be a painter, he began his career working as a freelance photographer for British Vogue. However, his clinical realist style suggests he cared almost nothing for the glamour or vanity of his famous subjects. "Being fatally drawn to the human race," Deakin said in 1938, "what I want to do when I take a photograph is make a revelation about it. So my sitters turn into my victims. But I would like to add that it is only those with a daemon, however small and of whatever kind, whose faces lend themselves to being victimised at all."

Notorious for his "his blistering personality, bad behaviour and total disregard for others", Deakin was later fired from this position, "after turning-up with one too many hangovers".

Though the two had a difficult personal relationship, Francis Bacon held Deakin's work in high regard. During the 1950s and 1960s, he took a series of portraits on commission for Bacon, many of which the painter later used as source material for some of his most noted work, perhaps most notably the Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorn Standing in a Street in Soho, 1967. In 1972, Deakin was with diagnosed with lung cancer, and underwent a successful operation to have it removed. While recuperating, on a visit to Brighton, he died of a heart attack in the Old Ship Hotel. In hospital, he had named Bacon as his next of kin, forcing the painter to identify the body. "It was the last dirty trick he played on me", Bacon remarked.

In 1984, he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museummarker, in London.


  1. " John Deakin". Retrieved on 21 January 2007.
  2. Baker, Kenneth. "John Deakin: Photographs". San Francisco Chronicle, 24 August 1997.
  3. " A Maverick Eye: The Photography of John Deakin". Walker Art Gallery, 2003. Retrieved on 21 January 2007.


  • Muir, Robin. "A Maverick Eye". London: Thames & Hudson, 2002. ISBN 0-5005-4224-9.

Further reading

  • Peppiatt, Michael (1996). Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ISBN 0-297-81616-0
  • Farson, Daniel (1987). Soho in the Fifties. London: Pimlico ISBN 0-7126-5724-X
  • Farson, Daniel (1988). Sacred Monsters. London: Bloomsbury ISBN 0-7475-0254-4

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