Photography by Harold Chapman
Sunday 4 June – Sunday 2 July 2017
Harold Chapman was born in Deal in 1927. As a child, his father introduced him to the magic of photography.
Harold was self-taught and started his career photographing jazz in Soho. A chance meeting with John Deakin, the Vogue photographer, changed his life. He went to Paris and started walking the streets and became a street photographer and was soon working for The New York Times. In 1957 he moved into the Beat Hotel- then a hotel with no name- on the Left Bank and lived there untill it closed in 1963.
Harold freelanced covering fashion shows for American newspapers including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune. He illustrated books for Flammarion, Thames & Hudson, Dent, The New York Times, and freelanced for medical magazines such as Medical World News of New York.
Harold did picture research for a series of social history books in the 1970s, including Victorian Life in Photographs, Yesterday, and The Home Front with Arthur Marwick, who was Professor of History at the Open University.
In 1973, Harold helped to found Connaissance du Pays d’Oc, a regional magazine in the South of France. By chance in the flea market in Montpellier, he met a young publisher who went on to publish The Beat Hotel in 1984. This book became a collector’s item and a second hand copy was sold in Sotheby’s, New York for $2,250 in 1999.
Returning to Deal in 1993, Harold photographed World War Two remains in the area around Deal.
In 1997 the Institut Francais d’Afrique du Sud and the British Council joined together to produce a reconstruction of the Beat Hotel in an abandoned factory in Johannesburg. Harold’s photographs travelled from there to Cape Town where the entire exhibition was bought by The OMC Gallery for Contemporary Art in Duesseldorf, which began a new chapter about Paris and the Beats and another book, called Beats a Paris.
In 2003, OMC Gallery lent Arts Lab creator, Jim Haynes, an exhibition of Beat Hotel photographs. Jim had Sunday dinners, cooked by volunteers, for artists, writers and poets in his studio in Paris.
In 2010 Proud Chelsea showed photos from the Beat Hotel in a major exhibition organised by the picture library, TopFoto.
A film called The Beat Hotel directed by Alan Govenar of Documentary Arts was released in 2012.
A new chapter of travelling exhibitions, retrospectives on the Beats and their literary and artistic movement, means that Harold’s work has for several years been shown in New York, Karlsruhe, Metz and Paris, including at the Centre Pompidou in 2016.
Harold is still working at the age of 90, currently on Les Halles market in Paris from his extensive archive.
Booker Prize-winning British novelist, Ian McEwan says:
If Chapman were merely a chronicler in a great documentary tradition, his achievement would be impressive enough. His lustrous landscapes of the Herault valley in the Languedoc, his priceless record of the Beat Hotel, his omnivorous, year-on-year transcription of daily life and its little undercurrents, would ensure his reputation as a photographer of the first rank. But it was constructive paranoia that made him an artist.”