Photography's golden age
John Chillingworth is a photographer that few have heard of, even among those who have some knowledge of the genre. Yet, his work featured in the UK's best known illustrated magazine, Picture Post, which first hit the presses 75 years ago and ran for almost 20 years until 1957.
A new book looks to put this right, presenting some of his best known photographs taken during his seven years on the staff of Picture Post, during a time often referred to as the golden era of photojournalism.
A time when a magazine filled with photographs of the week's news was an essential read.
It is said that at its peak the magazine was read by one in three of the population.
Picture Post was curated by talented journalistic staff, led by Stefan Lorant and later Tom Hopkinson, who was the one to give Chillingworth, then only 22, a staff job. Other photographers who worked on the magazine as either staff or in a freelance capacity included Bert Hardy, Felix Man, Bill Brandt, Thurston Hopkins, Grace Robertson, Leonard McCombe and Kurt Hutton, with whom Chillingworth developed a close working relationship.
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From the moment that I started work as a 'callow youth' in the Picture Post darkroom I know that I was handling images created by masters of their craft”
As many did in those days, Chillingworth began in the darkroom and was no doubt transfixed by the magic that could be had in the darkened corners. For who can resist the smell of chemicals and pools of light in which a blank sheet of paper could be transformed into a window on the world?
Writing in the introduction to the book, Matthew Butson, vice-president of the historical picture library, the Hulton Archive, says of Chillingworth's photography: "My theory is that John envisaged each feature as a narrative - and also considered how the words would complement the pictures. This perhaps sets him apart from a number of his peers who simply captured what was in front of the lens."
Sadly, Hopkinson left soon after Chillingworth became a staffer, leading to what many see as a gradual decline in the magazine's creative leadership. Yet it retained an outstanding group of photographers who continued to produce impressive work.
Here's a small selection of John Chilingworth's remarkable archive.
Photographs by John Chillingworth/Getty Images, from John Chillingworth published by Dewi Lewis Publishing.