Beaton in the Sixties

By the time photographer and stage designer Cecil Beaton died in 1980, he had published six volumes of his diaries, all of which had been scrupulously edited to insure that no offense was given, no libel action prompted. As Hugo Vickers observes in his introduction to Beaton in the Sixties: The Cecil Beaton Diaries as He Wrote Them, 1965-1969, Beaton was nothing if not a skillful re-toucher, and so, as in his most famous photographs, candor went by the boards and subjects were presented in the best possible light. He had a genius for making things pretty. Here, though, readers finally have something other than studio portraits: all the creases and crow’s feet have been left in. And it makes for a waspishly engaging account of the people and events in his life during the late-1960’s.

This was a decade of enormous cultural changes that threatened to upend the social world Beaton had for so long chronicled (and glamorized) on film. It is to his credit that he made the transition intact, moving easily back and forth between lunching with the Queen Mother at his home one week and smoking hash with Mick Jagger in Marrakesh the next. In spite of his age (and his increasingly despondent entries about its consequences--lack of energy and loss of looks), he was very much in the swim, flying from London to New York, Monte Carlo, Jamaica, Hollywood, Paris, and Greece. His accounts of yachting with Greta Garbo, photographing Pablo Picasso or Georgia...

(The entire section is 485 words.)