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Press release

  • 31 July 2006

Cult Sixties film gets exhibition treatment by Sussex art professor

Snapper David Hemmings spots something fishy

Snapper David Hemmings spots something fishy

Original photographs and art work used in the iconic Sixties film Blow-Up are the focus of an acclaimed London exhibition co-curated by a University of Sussex art historian.

Professor David Alan Mellor worked with Christies' decorative arts director Philippe Garner in putting together Antonioni's Blow-Up, which is at the Photographers' Gallery in London until September 17, 2006.

Made in 1966, Blow-Up was director Michelangelo Antonioni's first film in English and was to become one of the most important cinematic works of its decade; a seminal encapsulation of the vibrant and bohemian London scene of the period.

Its lead character, a fashion photographer played by David Hemmings, takes a sequence of photographs in a London park, apparently of a young woman (Vanessa Redgrave) in a tryst with her older lover. On examining the negatives later, the photographer realises that the couple's furtive behaviour perhaps hides a secret. He spots what appears to be a body in one of the photographs. But the more he enlarges the image the more blurred and indecipherable it becomes. The film is a voyage in which the protagonist starts to doubt both what he actually saw, and his photographic record of it, as fact and fiction are ever more ambiguously intertwined.

The film marked an extraordinary exchange of inspirations between photography, film and painting. For the first time since the movie's production, the paintings of Ian Stephenson, which were a powerful influence on Antonioni when he first came to London to make the film, have been brought together with the rarely glimpsed Don McCullin photographs, which Antonioni submitted to the artist to recreate on canvas. Two of Ian Stephenson's paintings are in the show, DIORAMA SS.3.67, 1967 and Still Life Abstraction D1, 1957.

Professor Mellor says: "Although the film has this Sixties' element to it, I see it as more like a Hitchcock murder-mystery. I've watched people going around the exhibition and it's fascinating to see how they are explaining the film to each other and experiencing it spatially. They are following the photographs, the stills from the film and lines from the script to get a sense of how the director put it all together."

Notes for editors

Antonioni's Blow-Up is at the Photographers' Gallery, 5 & 8 Great Newport Street London WC2H 7HY England, until September 17, 2006. Admission free.


Credit: photograph by Arthur Evans for MGM's Blow-Up (courtesy Philippe Garner)

University of Sussex Press Office contacts: Jacqui Bealing and Alison Field, tel. 01273 678888, email

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