1904 - 1990

Born the son of a coal mine surveyor in South Wales, Angus McBean bought his first camera and tripod at the close of World War l, fascinated by the possibilities of the medium. Moving to London in 1925, McBean worked in antique restoration while spending his off hours with photography, mask-making and attending the theater. He left the job after seven years and swore he would never be a "wage-slave" again. His masks soon came to the attention of Bond Street photographer Hugh Cecil who offered McBean an assistantship. There, McBean learned even more about the art of photography and after 18 months left to open his own studio. Still known as a mask maker, in 1936 McBean was approached by Ivor Novello to create masks for a new play. Impressed with McBean's photographs, Novello commissioned him for production shots of the cast which included young actress Vivien Leigh. When the images were shown McBean found a new career. Soon he was taking production photos and selling theater studies to the glossy weeklies. He would continue to photograph Ms. Leigh on stage and in the studio until her death. In 1942 he was arrested in Bath for gay acts. Sentenced to four years in prison, he was released early in the autumn 1944. After WWII, McBean successfully resumed his photography career. With his surreal and dramatic celebrity portraits propelling his growing popularity, in the late 1940s McBean became the official photographer of London's theater world. His later photography included The Beatles' first album cover, 'Please, Please Me,' as well as classic photographs of Agatha Christie, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Marlene Dietrich, and Noel Coward. McBean combined his technical mastery of light and shadow with a fantastic sensibility to create a distinctive style. The man Who Cecil Beaton called "the best photographer in the country" died at the age of 86 in 1990.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United Kingdom

Era/Epoch Great Depression (1929-1939) Information Age (1970-present) Interwar Period (1918-1939) Roaring Twenties (1920-1929)

Field(s) of Contribution





Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell