Terence Donovan: How judo passion engulfed ‘the man who shot the Sixties’

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Terence Donovan photographed everyone from Princess Diana to Julie Christie

But he also had a lifelong passion for the sport of judo, practicing every night

Two decades after his tragic death, his wife and fellow judoka recall that passion

CNN  — 

Terence Donovan is widely known as “the man who shot the Sixties,” while his iconic photographs are credited with helping to “launch a thousand stars.”

Donovan photographed everyone from Princess Diana to a naked Julie Christie, and models such as Twiggy and Naomi Campbell. In the process, the son of a lorry driver from East London became a self-made millionaire.

But while photography was both Donovan’s job and passion, his other overriding interest was judo.

For Donovan, who tragically committed suicide in 1996, judo was a daily pursuit. Each evening after work he would head to the Budokwai, his judo club in London.

judo mat throw

Over the years, his fellow judoka at The Budokwai would act as bodyguards to Princess Diana and would even appear as extras in the adverts he directed.

But nowhere did Donovan’s two great passions collide more than with “Fighting Judo,” the 1985 book he shot and wrote with Japanese judoka, Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki, as a guide to “the gentle way.”

“He was enormously proud of the book, it was something that gave him the greatest pleasure and he had a very strong friendship with Mr Kashiwazaki,” his wife Diana recently told CNN.

READ: The man who shot the stars

A judo practice target

While a big star in the arts world – Donovan’s multifarious roles included directing Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love video in the mid-80s – he was usually little more than a humble judo player within the Budokwai.

“He was just Terence, the man that turned up to judo practice,” Diana recalled. “They knew who he was and he was very dynamic but there he could just be him.

“He took it very seriously. He was a Buddhist so this was all part of the mindset. He took it up much more seriously during our married life of 26 years.”