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Al Vandenberg (1932 - 2012) was an American photographer notable for his street portraiture and collaboration on the album cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.[1][2][3][4]

Al Vandenberg
Portrait of Al Vandenberg Tate Britain London by Garry Rigby 2010.jpg
Born(1932-08-31)August 31, 1932
Boston, United States
DiedMarch 20, 2012(2012-03-20) (aged 79)


Early lifeEdit

Vandenberg was born to Dutch parents in Boston, USA in 1932. Joining the US military and serving in the Korean War, Vandenberg later attended art school in Boston then studied photography in New York City with Alexey Brodovitch, Richard Avedon and Bruce Davidson. Taking images of poverty, urban deprivation and ethnic minorities on the streets of New York - themes already explored by Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand - Vandenberg's photographs were subsequently exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution for President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty.[5]

Photographic careerEdit

From left to right: Michael Cooper, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Al Vandenberg & Brian Jones; sitting: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 1967) (Photograph by Ben Merk)
Detail from the picture above: Al Vandenberg 1967

Vandenberg worked as an art director for ad agency Doyle, Dane and Bernbach in New York. He was already a keen photographer before moving to London and had a photograph in the Museum of Modern Art. He moved to London in 1964 to pursue a career in photography- editorial, fashion, advertising and music. Vandenberg collaborated on the album cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Disillusioned with his commercial practice, Vandenberg eventually abandoned his business work altogether to concentrate on his personal street portraits.[6]

Everything I made money on was fucking up the world. I philosophised myself out of the business quick. All these people tell you they want to use you, and bloody hell they do. I was tired of making a living. I wanted to live instead. –Al Vandenberg[7]

From the 1970s onwards, Vandenberg’s own photographs—as opposed to his commercial work—were made on the streets, although the emphasis of the pictures had now changed. Where earlier he had studied depression and poverty, producing images of alienation, he now photographed people looking directly into the camera and enjoying themselves; people who attracted him and with whom he could establish a rapport. His subjects were now relaxed and responsive, sharing with him in the making of the picture. His series of high street photographs embraced the people of Singapore, Tokyo, Hollywood, New York, Hong Kong, Beijing, Laos and London, and totalled thousands of images.[8][9]

In 1980 Vandenberg co-founded the Hereford Photography Festival. This was the longest running annual photography competition in the UK until its closure in 2012.[10][11][12]


Vandenberg died in Hereford, UK in 2012 having completed his third trip to China where he was preparing a body of work on its young people entitled "The Good People of China". Shortly after Vandenberg's death in 2012 his work was exhibited at Tate Britain and the V&A Museum London.[13][14][15]

Vandenberg's estate is represented by Eric Franck Fine Art[16] of London.

Permanent collectionsEdit

Selected ExhibitionsEdit

  • 2012: Tate Britain, London
  • 2012: Victoria & Albert Museum, London
  • 1985: Sala Arcs De Caixa De Barcelona, Spain
  • 1985: Circulo De Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain
  • 1981: Zagreb, Galerije Grada, Yugoslavia
  • 1980: British Council, Rotterdam, Netherlands


  1. ^, Victoria and Albert Museum, Digital Media. "Staying Power - Al Vandenberg".
  2. ^ "Another London: photos of London from 1930-1980".
  3. ^ "Cover shoot for Sgt Pepper". 30 March 1967.
  4. ^ "London through a lens".
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-06. Retrieved 2014-11-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Al Vandenberg".
  8. ^ "My generation: British childhood from the age of austerity to the age".
  9. ^ "Toothless tinkers in top hats, bombed out streets and the changing faces of Britain: Classic photos bring life to the last 80 years".
  10. ^ "Photo festival reaches 20 years". 22 October 2010 – via
  11. ^ "Hereford Photography Festival - The Arts Desk".
  12. ^
  13. ^ Tate. "'Another London: exhibition room guide, room 7' - Tate".
  14. ^, Victoria and Albert Museum, Digital Media. "Staying Power".
  15. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-10. Retrieved 2014-11-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit