David Sim

David Sim, during the 1950s and 60s, was one of a vanguard of progressive photographers who, with the advent of smaller hand held cameras and faster films, changed the landscape of theatre photography. Gone were the set-piece compositions and in came David Sim, Tony Armstrong-Jones, Jane Bown, Zoë Dominic, Lewis Morley and John Timbers whose approach was to capture “the life of a play caught in action as opposed to posed set-ups where actors would wear their photo-call face”.

This change of style was mirrored by the hot-house of new writing, the Royal Court, with new plays by writers such as John Osborne, Ionesco, Shelagh Delaney and Samuel Beckett. Photography was imitating art and both were reflecting real life, portraying it in all its nitty gritty definition over a broader spectrum of human experience. David became one of The Observer’s principal photographers covering West End theatre productions, the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, Joan Littlewood’s Stratford East and many others.

David had his own studio at 59 Shaftesbury Avenue which, for a while he shared with his fellow photographer and friend Tony Armstrong Jones, photographing portraits, fashion shoots and all the many other commissions that came his way.

The great tragedy, and David never got over his devastation when it happened, was discovering that his whole library of prints and negatives were missing when he eventually sold his studio. We are slowly attempting to rebuild what was an important contribution to the history of theatre photography in the hope that, perhaps one day, someone reading this might help us to find out what happened to David’s archive.

View all images by David Sim

NEKRASSOV by Sartre ;
Ronnie Barker (far left)
Robert Helpmann (wearing eye patch) ;
directed by George Devine ;
design by Richard Negri ;
at the Royal Court Theatre, London, UK ;
1957 ;
Credit : David Sim / ArenaPAL


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