London – The death of Princess Diana, 25 years ago, happened in the same spectacular way in which she lived the last 16 years of her life: under the media spotlight, in an accident in Paris in the early hours of August 31, 1997, when the car in which she was traveling with her boyfriend, the Arab billionaire Dodi Fayed, she went astray trying to evade celebrity photo hunters.
The life and death of the kindergarten assistant of noble origin and shy manner who married Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, bear little resemblance to fairy tale stories. The dramas were portrayed in reports, films and series, some reproducing the most crazy conspiracy theories.
Much of what is said about her is invention. But one thing is indisputable: the charisma etched in images of her public appearances, from her days as a typical English girl to the glamor of an international celebrity, including her caring mother and the activist who walked over landmines in Africa.
Lady Diana, photographs remember 25 years of death
The Getty Images archive in London, one of the largest in the world, has photographs of many of the “Diana princesses” she embodied after she became engaged to Prince Charles in 1981.
And it’s not a thing of the past. The mystique around the so-called “people’s princess”, whose marriage also ended in a noisy way, with betrayals and bombastic interviews, is still alive.
According to Getty, even with so much time passed since her death, more people searched for photographs and videos of Princess Diana in the last 12 months than images of her daughter-in-law Kate, married to Prince William.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, the archive’s team of curators has curated a selection of landmark photographs that capture special moments in her life, some of them revealing.
This image, by famous royal photographer Tim Graham, was captured during Diana’s first official photo shoot with Prince Charles after their engagement, in Balmoral, Scotland, on May 6, 1981.
The photo shows an expression of boredom, which does not match the idea of a future princess excited about the wedding.
Melanie Llewellyn, curator of the Getty Images Archive, thinks this photograph of Princess Diana may have been overlooked in the initial selection of images that would be used for publicity.
“As we come to understand more about his life in the years that follow, the portrait is moving,” says Llewellyn.
At the time, repeating clothes was not a problem. Diana was photographed in London wearing the same sweater in January 1981.
There, she was still Lady Diana Spencer, a nursery assistant, shown with children in her care at Young England Kindergarten.
The Getty curator notes, however, a detail suggesting that fame had already arrived for the future Princess Diana: the watchful eye of the woman in the red outfit.
Although Princess Diana’s death took place a quarter of a century ago, news has yet to be discovered among the photographs in the archive. Melanie Llewellyn explains that thousands of images are scanned every month, and some surprises appear.
“It can be hard to see someone as photographed as Princess Diana with new eyes. Every now and then, however, an image may pop up and do just that – perhaps capturing a lesser-seen gesture among the more familiar poses.”
One of the examples pointed out by the curator is this portrait by Tom Stoddart, another great name in photography.
The spontaneous capture is reminiscent of the style of the street photography genre. The difference is the face, instantly recognizable.
Demonstrating an “exaggerated surprise when her Mini Metro car stopped”, the photo also contrasts with the traditional – and more chaotic – images of paparazzi chasing Princess Diana that would come in later years.
Another recent find in the Getty Images archive is a photograph of Diana during her first official walk, in the city of Tetbury, on May 22, 1981, sixteen years before her death.
She wears a red and white blazer signed by stylist Jasper Conran, and the color of the outfit is enhanced by red roses presented by an admirer.
Around Diana, a crowd celebrates the future princess, photographing her with analogue cameras. Many of these photos must be in forgotten boxes today. That’s why photographic archives that store and catalog historical images are so important.
Melanie Llewellyn says the Getty’s collections of images of the British royal family go back to the dawn of photography, allowing her to follow lives and ancestors.
“We can see changing styles of real portraits, along with changing access parameters and distinctions between public and private.
[…] The initial images are often the most interesting, even without the weight of the person photographed”.
Shot by American photojournalist Dirck Halstead, Diana is pictured here in the days leading up to her wedding, greeting her future mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II, with a kiss.
“There is something moving about seeing such a simple and tender exchange between two such important figures, before the complicated years that followed,” comments Llewellyn.
Another scene chosen by the Getty on the 25th anniversary of Diana’s death is the click of celebrated photojournalist John Downing after a visit by the Princess of Wales to a school near the town of Highgrove in June 1985.
Thousands of images were made of events similar to this one. The special detail is the movement of the girl’s ponytail and the mischievous expression on her face, as Diana struggles to catch the bouquet through the half-opened glass.
“Even with most of her face hidden, we still instantly recognize the bouquet recipient as Diana.”
The evolution of Diana’s figure was documented by the press and in essays by great photographers for fashion and style magazines. She influenced the world with the haircut and clothes signed by great stylists.
But there are also more surprising fashion moments to watch – including a pair of pink Converse All Stars, worn during a visit to the Royal Hampshire Regiment at Tidworth in June 1988.
The color of the sneakers contrasts with the green of the landscape, the well camouflaged clothes of the soldier covered in grass and the uniform worn by Diana, who went to the unit to participate in military exercises and drive a tank.
In addition to tennis, the photo also has a story related to its author. Specializing in covering the activities of the British monarchy, Jayne Fincher was one of the few photographers to work on Fleet Street – where the major English newspapers are located – since the late 1970s.
According to Melanie Llewellyn, Fincher had a good relationship with Diana, and her features were accentuated by the photographer’s gaze.
In another photo of her own, Princess Diana is photographed during a walk in Oxford in 1990.
The photographer captured the glow of the princess’s figure, warmly lit and smiling upwards.
“In an event like so many others, Fincher captured a particular moment, an ability shared with Diana herself.”
Princess Margaret, sister of Elizabeth II, was known for her transit among major celebrities, but Princess Diana went further, becoming part of the circuit of well-known figures around the world until her death 25 years ago.
In this photo she appears at the benefit preview of a film at the Langham Hilton Hotel in 1991, in “collusion” with actress and singer Liza Minnelli.
Sipping water and coke, the two seem to be enjoying some slander, like two teenage friends.
This rare image of a member of the monarchy spontaneously laughing was captured by society and entertainment photographer Dave Benett.
Another curiosity of the photo is that Diana attended the event by her own decision, and not as part of her official duties, at a time when she was starting to distance herself from the royal family. A year later, she and Prince Charles separated.
“One reason for the relevance of archival photos is the context they can provide for understanding the present moment. The royal family narrative remains compelling, and with Diana’s children now becoming parents, there’s a real fascination in comparing the looks produced today with those of the past.”
This is an example.
Princess Diana’s record at a funeral service in honor of her father, Earl Spencer, in May 1992 reveals a tender moment at the centre, showing her with her hands on Prince William’s head under the gaze of her brother, Harry. .