PARIS • British art photographer David Hamilton died in Paris last Friday at the age of 83 after committing suicide, just weeks after he was accused of rape, a police source told Reuters.
Hamilton, whose work appeared in high-end fashion magazines, was known for his images of nude young models which drew some controversy. He was found dead in his Paris apartment with a plastic bag over his head, a source told Agence France- Presse, adding: "There is nothing at this stage to suggest anything other than suicide."
Hamilton had been drinking alcohol. Another source said drug tests would be performed on the body as medication was found in the photographer's bathroom.
A neighbour raised the alarm after noticing the door of Hamilton's apartment was half-open. Emergency services found him in cardiac arrest.
At the time of his death, he had been embroiled in accusations of sexual assault by French television and radio host Flavie Flament, 42.
She accused him of raping her when she modelled for him as a 13-year-old in 1987. She did not mention him by name in her book The Consolation, but its cover photo was an image taken by him.
She later identified him to the French media after three other women contacted her with near identical allegations.
She alleged he had raped her in the shower of his apartment after spotting her in a nudist resort at Cap d'Agde in south-west France where she was on holiday with her parents.
Last Tuesday, Hamilton confirmed that Flament had been his model, but denied the allegations, saying: "I have done nothing improper.
"Clearly the instigator of this media lynching is looking for her 15 minutes of fame by defaming me in her novel."
Flament's editor Karina Hocine said last Friday that the radio presenter was "devastated" by the news of Hamilton's death.
"Naturally, we feel horrified and, at the same time, really disgusted that there was not enough time for justice to run its course," she added.
"The horror of this news will never erase the sleepless nights," Flament said, reiterating her allegations.
Hamilton's work has long raised questions about where art ends and pornography begins.
He was most famous for his kitschy calendars of girls and his soft-focus erotic films including Bilitis (1977). His photography books sold millions of copies.
He was born in London in 1933 and studied architecture as a young man, but moved to Paris at age 20, inspired by impressionist painters, and started to work in fashion.
He worked first as a designer at Elle magazine and then as an artistic director at luxury department store Printemps.
With no formal training in photography, he found his calling at 33, seeking his models in the street and on the beach.
He became known for his trademark "Hamilton blur". His subdued lighting and young female subjects - often blonde, blue-eyed and crowned with flowers - were fashionable in the 1970s and 1980s, but the style was later seen as outdated and his pictures were considered disturbing by some.
Under the French statute of limitations, charges must be brought within 20 years for rape and 10 years for sexual abuse.
However, in a twist last Tuesday, the French minister for children's and women's rights, Mr Laurence Rossignol, asked Flament to lead a body which will look at whether to extend the statute of limitations.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE