John Swannell was born in 1946. After leaving school at 16, he worked first as an assistant at Vogue Studios and then assisted David Bailey for four years before setting up his own studio.
He spent the next ten years traveling and working for magazines such as Vogue, Harpers & Queen, the Sunday Times and Tatler. During this time he developed his very distinctive, individual style in both fashion and beauty photography.
In 1989 John Swannell had a one man show at The Royal Academy in Edinburgh, followed in 1990 by an exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. In July of the same year The Royal Photographic Society held a retrospective of his fashion work.
In 1993 John Swannell was awarded a Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society; he was one of the youngest members to have achieved this status at the time. In November 1994, Diana, The Princess of Wales personally commissioned John to photograph her together with her sons.
From November 1996 to March 1997 John had a one man show of his portraits at The National Portrait Gallery in London to celebrate the publication of his book ‘Twenty Years On’ which are now held in their archives.
John photographed HRH The Princess Royal for her fortieth and fiftieth birthdays. The Royal Mail commissioned John to photograph the Duke and Duchess of Wessex for a stamp celebrating their wedding and for the celebration stamp marking the occasion of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday in 2001. In 2002 John was one of the photographers asked to photograph HM The Queen to celebrate her Golden Jubliee. The images were used in the press and exhibited at Windsor Castle. In 2012 John was commissioned to take the only official portrait of HM The Queen to celebrate Her Diamond Jubilee.
The National Portrait Gallery in London has over fifty of his photographs, and The V&A, The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Royal Photographic Society now have many of John’s works in their permanent collections.