Anthony Quinn at The Guardian:
In the emollient climate of today's portrait photography John Deakin's work presents a bracing corrective. Deakin (1912-1972) photographed celebrities in his heyday, but he never cosseted or flattered them in the manner of a Mario Testinoor an Annie Leibowitz. The faces of his sitters, caught in a curious hungover light, loom out at you, bemused, vulnerable, possibly guilty. He called them his “victims”, and no wonder. A portrait he took of himself in the early 1950s is revealing, his pinched features and beady gaze suggesting a spiv or a blackmailer out of a Patrick Hamilton novel. “An evil genius,” George Melly said of him, and “a vicious little drunk of such inventive malice that it's surprising he didn't choke on his own venom.”
The inventiveness, if not the malice, is available for inspection in Under the Influence, curator Robin Muir's latest dip into the Deakin archive, which accompanies an exhibition currently showing at the Photographers' Gallery in London. It is a timely book in one way, for it offers glimpses of a Soho – Deakin's stamping ground of the late 40s and 50s – before its tragic fall into respectability.