The swinging sixties were a time of rapid change, groundbreaking fashion, pop culture explosion, and the emergence of defiantly independent women. London, the heart of this cultural renaissance, was abuzz with actresses, models, designers, and pop singers who were not just observing the change but driving it. Among the whirlwind, there was one man with a keen eye and a camera, ready to encapsulate this remarkable era – John d Green.
The Birth of Birds of Britain
The genesis of the iconic book ‘Birds of Britain’ took place over a pint of beer at Kensington’s Adam and Eve pub in early 1966. John d Green, then a highly-regarded advertising photographer, felt it was time to step out of the shadows of the advertising world and focus on the women who were making London swing.
Accompanied by his friends and work colleagues David Tree, Terry Howard, and Rowland Wells, Green conceived the idea of creating a coffee table book celebrating these women. The project was not just about celebrating the women of the era, but also about showcasing Green’s exceptional talent to a wider audience.
The Journey Begins: The First Shoot
The first shoot for ‘Birds of Britain’ took place on 29 April 1966 with Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon, strikingly captured covered in engine oil. This unconventional image set the tone for the rest of the book – it was going to be anything but ordinary.
Green’s strikingly individual, unconventional, and witty portraits featured 58 women who were defining the spirit of the sixties. From actresses like Julie Christie, Susannah York, and Hayley Mills to singers like Dusty Springfield and Marianne Faithfull, and even the iconic fashion designer Mary Quant – Green photographed them all.
The Book Comes to Life
After twelve months of intense photography sessions, the last of which featured Cetra Hearne surrounded by pipe smoke, the real work began. David Tree, Green’s close collaborator and art director on the project, spent the next six months on design and layouts.
Published in September 1967, the book’s cover featured a close-up color portrait of Pattie Boyd, cheekily trying to shake off a painted beetle, while the inside was filled with mesmerizing black and white portraits. The book instantly captured the public’s attention, selling 60,000 copies – a staggering number considering most coffee table books at that time had a print run of just 3,000 copies.