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Unseen Rolling Stones Photos: A Photographer’s Legacy Found in a Cardboard Box

Curators’ corner

Unseen Rolling Stones Photos: A Photographer’s Legacy Found in a Cardboard Box

Unseen photos of the Rolling Stones from late photographer Eric Swayne’s personal archive are set to go on display in London this summer.

The exhibition, titled The Stones and Their Scene, will run from June 13 to July 28 at Proud Chelsea and will showcase Swayne’s rendezvous with Swinging London’s revolutionary creatives in the 1960s. Though spotlighting Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts in their prime, the images portray a larger social circle that was at the apex of artistic greatness – David Bailey, Anita Pallenberg, Pattie Boyd, Ossie Clark, Mary Quant, Jane Birkin, Chrissie Shrimpton, Catherine Deneuve and Swayne himself all appear in the collection.

According to The Guardian, Swayne cleaned out his studio while battling terminal cancer and discarded everything except a cardboard box that he marked, “do not throw out.” After Swayne’s death in 2007, his son, Tom, found the box in the photographer’s attic. Tom told The Guardian he was aware of his father’s legendary run, but not of its magnitude.

“We knew he had been a photographer in the 60s, and he did sometimes tell stories like Keith Richards turning up in a limousine to collect him to go shopping, and if he liked something buying one in every color they made,” Tom said. “But he didn’t talk about it much at all, and I was more interested in football at the time.”

According to The Guardian, Eric Swayne didn’t get his big break with photography. He actually ran a coffee shop in central London that attracted the Swinging Sixties’ cultural scene, including photographer David Bailey.

“When Bailey saw he was interested in photography, he encouraged my dad to pick up a camera and have a go for himself, and he never looked back,” Tom told The Guardian.

Swayne’s photography career took off from that right-place-right-time moment and lasted for nearly two decades before he eventually made a switch to commercial advertising, Tom said.

“In the 70s and 80s the whole thing just moved on. He lost his contacts and I think people just forgot about him, but he kept the photographs,” Tom said. “They’re beautiful. I’m so proud of him.”

The Stones and Their Scene exhibit embodies the essence of photography – The freezing of time and capturing of a moment that will later leave a proud, nostalgic and bittersweet legacy.

Photo by Eric Swayne, Courtesy of Proud Chelsea

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