Search

The glamorous world of Martin Amis and friends in the 1970s

PUBLISHED: 11:40 16 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:50 07 September 2010

Martin Amis

Martin Amis

Sanchez Manning BRITAIN may have been in the throes of a ravaging depression during the late 1970s, but for one privileged set of writers, artists and intellectuals life could not have been better. At least that is how it appears in these previously unsee

Sanchez Manning

BRITAIN may have been in the throes of a ravaging depression during the late 1970s, but for one privileged set of writers, artists and intellectuals life could not have been better.

At least that is how it appears in these previously unseen photographs which Angela Gorgas took of her then fiance Martin Amis and their glamorous friends.

The black-and-white prints, currently displayed at the National Portrait Gallery, give a tantalising glimpse into the early lives of people who would later dominate our cultural landscape.

Among the gilded set were Amis's good friends, outspoken journalist Christopher Hitchens, writer Ian McEwan and poet James Fenton.

Talking to Ms Gorgas, the west London she and Amis inhabited could not have been further from the grim, seedy area the author used as a backdrop for novels like London Fields.

As an attractive young artist, she met Amis in 1976 while she was living in Maida Vale. In his late 20s, he was already an established figure on the London literary scene and worked as the arts editor at the New Statesman.

Studying one unaffected image of Amis playing guitar next to a discarded handwritten script at his Bayswater flat in 1977, Ms Gorgas recalls warmly: "This was the start of it really. It was a little bachelor flat - very cosy."

"I met Martin at a party," she later expands. "He was very popular. If you went to a party he would just sit in one place and people would come to him. He was well known, well, he was famous."

But it is unlikely that Amis's fame would have fazed Ms Gorgas. She was already sharing a house with banking heir Amschel Rothschild and the beautiful Scottish writer Candia McWilliam.

Looking at her picture of the aristocratic Rothschild taken at his country pile in Suffolk, the now 60-year-old photographer muses how he seems lost in his thoughts.

"It's indicative of the trust and friendship we had," she says. "He was a very shy and private person but we became very good friends."

She concedes that during the time documented, most of her group enjoyed a highly privileged existence touched very little by the economic turmoil that gripped the country.

However, she also stresses that like most other young people they spent most of their time going to the cinema or local pubs and restaurants.

As for Amis's later visions of west London, she says: "Writing is part experience, part imagination. Martin came from a privileged background and was surrounded by literary people."

For Ms Gorgas, the selection of photographs she has chosen to display, which in many ways she considers an heirloom, bring a mix of emotions.

On the one side they are representative of a heady time when she was living in a circle of artistic movers and shakers who were in their prime.

"It was a hugely optimistic time. Anything was possible and we were all doing really well," she says.

But she admits they are also tinged with sadness thinking about how some of the bright youthful lives were blighted or cut short. Nine of the 24 subjects she captured have since died, including her close friend Amschel Rothschild who hanged himself in a Paris hotel room at 41.

These feelings aside, Ms Gorgas has no regrets about going public with her treasured photo album. And the exhibition, which reveals private moments of a range of celebrated figures from Kingsley Amis and the photographer Angus Bean to Withnail and I director Bruce Robinson, has been met with general approval from the subjects.

On seeing his younger self at a private viewing of the photographs, Martin Amis apparently laughed out loud saying: "Oh my goodness, did I really look like that?


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ham&High. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Most Read

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Most Read

Latest from the Hampstead Highgate Express