Spanning five decades, British Photographer Angus McBean’s yearly Christmas card was a Yuletide treat for those in his circle. He would sometimes spend weeks on the elaborate set-ups, all self-portraits. They began in 1933 and continued intermittently through 1985. The cards were nods to Surrealism but usually at its whimsical fringe. Many veered precariously close to kitsch, and some zoomed well beyond it. In the image to the left, for example, a dapper-looking McBean is superimposed into a photograph of a Mae West doll.
London's National Portrait Gallery held a retrospective of his work in 2006. The holiday cards were exhibited in their entirely and were the highlight of the show.
Angus McBean is not as well known in the United States as he is in Britain. However, it was his photograph of Vivien Leigh that inspired David Selznick to consider her for Gone with the Wind. McBean became Leigh's photographer of choice, and there is an entire book devoted to their decades-long collaboration, Vivien, A Love Affair in Camera. Moreover, McBean was a former lover of Quentin Crisp, the outré English homosexual who took the Downtown New York party scene by storm when he emigrated to America in the 1980s (see Resident Alien, The New York Diaries).