More than 300 images from Elton John and his husband David Furnish‘s extensive photography collection are currently on display at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. Elton is one of the world’s foremost collectors of photography, but says there’s one kind he hates — photos of himself.

“It’s extraordinary that I collect photographs because I don’t like being photographed,” Elton told the BBC. “I find it really painful.” He adds, “I would never put myself up on the wall [at home], no thank you.”

Furnish laughs, “The paradox of someone who appreciates and has a sophisticated eye for photographs yet cannot stand to be photographed is not lost on me.” There are two photos of Elton in the exhibit, but they’re more irreverent and don’t show him performing.

The exhibit, called Fragile Beauty, includes images of everything from the Civil Rights Movement and AIDS activism to 9/11 and the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

Noting that the exhibit includes “a lot of pain and grief,” Elton explains, “Sometimes in tragic images, whether it’s paintings or photographs, there’s a lot of beauty. And that’s why the show’s called Fragile Beauty, because there’s beauty in everything.”

Elton says he was “absolutely blown away” to see his collection on display, because he hadn’t really gotten a good look at a lot of the photos he owns.

“You buy photographs and they go straight into storage,” he says. “And a lot of them I haven’t seen hung properly or hung at all. And so walking through, it’s been hung so beautifully and the different sections and wall colors. I couldn’t be happier.”

 

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