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Please note: RPS House is closed for our exhibition install. We will be open again from 10am on Friday 9th August 2024.

‘Girl Holding Kitten, London, UK, 1960’, By Bruce Davidson Honfrps : Magnum Photos

Bruce Davidson tells the story behind ‘Girl holding kitten’

The Magnum veteran reflects on a favourite photograph taken more than 60 years ago

‘Girl holding kitten, London, UK, 1960’, by Bruce Davidson HonFRPS/Magnum Photos

It was 1960 when Bruce Davidson HonFRPS chanced on this teenage girl hanging around with her sister and a friend in London.

The veteran Magnum photographer, then 27 years old, had been touring England in a Hillman Minx convertible, taking pictures along the coast.

“It was a good time,” remembers Davidson, who received the RPS Centenary Medal 2021. “I used to drive around in that car eating fudge that I’d bought from a shop in London.”

Something about this girl struck him. Maybe it was the kitten, or the girl’s androgynous style, which seemed to represent modern British youth. The image went on to become one of his most recognised and best-loved, as well as being a personal favourite, but it was another six decades before he learned the full story behind the photograph.

“Her name was Carol, and I didn’t really talk to her much at the time but a few months ago her sister Christine, who appears with her in another image from the same set, got in touch with my studio,” he explains. “Some people who see the picture assume Carol is a runaway because she’s carrying a sleeping bag, but she and her sister had been hitchhiking around the Lake District, winding up in London for a concert.

“Her sister said they’d had an amazing upbringing in a loving, close-knit family. When they got older both sisters toured the world as part of a professional ice-skating troupe and had a wonderful, happy life. Carol is sadly no longer with us, but her sister now lives in Australia.”

The kitten cradled in her hands remains a mystery.

Bruce Davidson HonFRPS selects some of his favourite images in a special issue of the RPS Journal celebrating the RPS Awards 2021. His work features in the book The Photograph That Changed My Life by Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS, published by Art Cinema, £19.95.

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