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Clive James
, 1999

by Polly Borland

type C photograph (image: 48.8 cm x 38.6 cm)

Clive James AO CBE (b. 1939), writer, broadcaster and critic, grew up south of Sydney, attending Hurstville Opportunity School, Sydney Tech. High School and the University of Sydney before leaving Australia for Cambridge. Working toward his MA in literature, he became president of the Footlights revue team that included Germaine Greer and Eric Idle. He published the first of many non-fiction works in 1974. His subsequent books include three best-selling volumes of autobiography, four novels, and many collections of travel essays, journalism and literary criticism. After a decade as television critic for the Observer, throughout the 1980s he played the genial host of television talk shows such as Saturday Night Clive, and wrote and presented BBC and ITV specials documenting absurdities of the decade. James has lived in England for most of his adult life, although in contrast to other expatriates of his generation, he has escaped punishment for it in the Australian press. His deep and skilful poems, which have long appeared in such cerebral publications as the New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman, are collected in The Book of my Enemy (2003), Opal Sunset (2007) and Angels over Elsinore (2008). In 2013, critically ill with leukemia and emphysema, he saw the publication of his masterful translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. His poetry collection Nefertiti in the flak tower (2012), he said, ‘hits a pitch that I have been working towards all my life’.

Polly Borland left her native Australia for London in 1989, having established herself as a leading fashion and portrait photographer for Australian Vogue. Since then she has made a career as an editorial photographer, specialising in portraits, with her photographs syndicated internationally. Her first book, The Babies, a portfolio of infantilists, was released in December 2000. Nonetheless, she was one of few photographers invited to portray HM Queen Elizabeth II for her Golden Jubilee in 2002. Her recent publications include the gently disturbing Bunny (2008) and Smudge (2011), for which her friend Nick Cave was a model.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2001
Accession number: 2001.53