‘She knew how to convey a message’: Diana exhibition opens in London

<span>Anwar Hussein and his sons, Samir and Zak, look at a photograph of Catherine, Princess of Wales, alongside one of Diana, Princess of Wales.</span><span>Photograph: John Nguyen/PA</span>
Anwar Hussein and his sons, Samir and Zak, look at a photograph of Catherine, Princess of Wales, alongside one of Diana, Princess of Wales.Photograph: John Nguyen/PA

From her famous “revenge” dress to the lonely Taj Mahal pose, the late Diana, Princess of Wales knew the power of the photograph, and more often than not the acclaimed royal photographer Anwar Hussein was on hand to help her harness it.

Now some of these images, including ones of her walking through an Angolan minefield and shaking hands with an Aids patient, form a London exhibition by Hussein, 86, an accredited royal photographer for more than 50 years.

“She knew how to convey a message through a photograph,” said Hussein, who began photographing Diana once her relationship with Charles was made public and while she was still a nursery school assistant.

As a Buckingham Palace accredited photographer, Hussein would be given access to royal engagements and accompanied the royals on tours. His two sons, Samir and Zak, have followed in their father’s footsteps, officially photographing Princes William and Harry and their wives, Catherine and Meghan.

Together, the Hussein family have amassed a huge archive of royal pictures, with 75 prints of Diana and her sons and daughters-in-law making up the walk-through exhibition. The stories behind each image are available to listen to in an audio guide.

The photographs include the unforgettable “revenge” dress, said to have been worn by Diana on purpose to an engagement on the night Charles made his adultery admission on television. There are images of Diana as a mother-to-be, mother, fashion icon and humanitarian.

In the exhibition’s audio guide, Hussein says: “Throughout my career in photographing Princess Diana, I often say this is history being made. It has never happened before. I’m here to photograph it.”

One striking images is of Diana cradling a young cancer patient at a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, who later died. Hussein recounts: “Diana told me that out of so many pictures taken of her, this was her favourite photograph of all. Even though the boy was blind, and he was in a lot of pain from all of the surgical cuts and sores on his head and body, you can see he is looking lovingly at her, and it seems like he could feel the care she had for him. She actually held him for a very long time, like he was her own baby. She was very moved when she found out the boy passed away shortly after her visit.”

The exhibition, which has had success in Los Angeles and Melbourne before opening in London, juxtaposes the image of Diana alone in front of the Taj Mahal with one taken years later of William and Catherine sitting in front of the same monument. Another striking image, taken by Samir, is of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in the rain on an engagement in London.

“There are so many memories of our two families connecting and creating a special relationship, which I am pleased to be able to display in such a unique way through the exhibition,” Hussein said.

Princess Diana Exhibition: Accredited Access runs from 25 May to 2 September at the Dockside Vaults, Ivory House, St Katharine Docks, London. Tickets available to book here.