Photography inspired him, and launched his career; it would perhaps be too easy to say that it was also an art which demanded the least effort, and made best use of his social connections.
Having left Cambridge degreeless, his career was generously funded by his father.
And after lunching with the Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra, Noel Coward recorded in his diary: “They are when I mentioned it.” Privately, Coward thought: “He looks quite pretty, but whether or not the marriage is entirely suitable remains to be seen”; while Jocelyn Stevens declared: “I have always regarded her as a bird in a gilded cage.She would have loved to break free, but was never able to.” Yet now she seemed to be offered an escape.When he feels that he knows what is the right thing to do, he will say so, even if it is not necessarily what the listener wants to hear.In the meritocratic world of post-war Britain, Armstrong-Jones promoted himself.But not to wince, I think.” Nor did this dapper, socially-adept figure have that effect on the Princess.
Unlike her other suitors – the “witless wonders” – he was a modern man, dressed in hip-hugging slacks, suede shoes, rollneck jumpers; fair, blue-eyed, lean, a diminutive figure prowling London in pursuit of subjects, camera clasped in his fist.
He joined the photographic studio of ‘Baron’ – the working name of Henry Nahan, a drinking partner of Prince Philip – then set up his own studio, firstly in Shaftesbury Avenue and then in Pimlico, earning a living from fashion shoots for He specialised in dramatically-lit shots of theatrical personalities, created in sessions heavily underscored by his personal charm.
Anna Massey commented: “Tony had this unbelievable gift of making it like a photographed conversation – you were just unaware of him taking photos …
And I remember sitting behind Lord Snowdon, as he then was, at a first night of Noel Coward’s Brought up at Plas Dinas, the Caernarvonshire family home, Armstrong-Jones went up to Eton – only for his teenage years to be blighted by the terrifying disease of polio.
While he was in hospital, Uncle Oliver – in many ways an alternative father figure to Armstrong-Jones – brought some distinguished visitors: Noel Coward, and Marlene Dietrich, who sang “Boys in the Backroom” to him.
Indeed, that year he had published a collection of photographs entitled , of which he declared: “I believe that photographs should be simple technically, and easy to look at.