Saturday, 15 March 2008

Paul F Cullerne 1918-2005 (Aviation Photographer)

Paul Cullerne left the Air Force in 1946 as a Sergeant Photographer and spent part of his War service at RAF Nassau. On leaving the Air Force, he took up photographic work for Messrs A V Roe and Company Ltd then HSA and BAe, retiring in the early '80s.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Charles Sims (Aviation Photographer) 1901-1983

Charles Sims was photographer of the 'Aeroplane' magazine. Having been everywhere in the British industry throughout the 1930s, Sims knew it wasn't luck that when war came, all those Hurricanes and Spitfires and Merlins and radar and everything behind them were in place. He knew the people who strove for all that, in industry and in government, while Hitler saw Britain as Oxford Union pacifists,Mosleyites, and wet politicians with monocles.Sims saw the RAF having to fight its own wets too,including the air marshal whom he heard say, at a Hurricane press presentation at Brooklands in about 1936: "Monoplanes will never be able to dogfight."

Charles E. Brown (Aviation Photographer) 1896-1982

It was in 1911 that an enterprising fifteen year-old camera enthusiast in Southfields, South London, saw an Edwardian gentleman balloonist in trouble.Instead of gaping open mouthed, he primed his simple camera, chose his moment, made an exposure and rushed with his glass plate to the offices of the Daily Mirror, one of the few newspapers of the day that use photographs on a regular basis.

For his trouble, he received the princely sum of half a guinea (55p). The young lad who was, by 1914, to embrace press photography with panache and good taste, was Charles E. Brown. He was destined to become one of the century’s finest air-to-air photographers. In his time, he set standards to which every other aerial photographer aspired and was held in awe by RAF photographers whose training, thorough as it was, did not include aesthetic ideas and artistic flair.

The route to fame
Photography for the press was, from its earliest days, often a proving ground for a wider creative canvas. So it proved for Charles Brown, because in 1921 he became a freelance. In 1924, he was commissioned by the newly created Southern Railway to produce a picture series that covered every aspect of the company’s operations. In the same year, he took one of the most enduring poster pictures of the century.

Until that time, railway holiday posters were the domain of the poster artist. Brown changed all that with his endearing image of a little boy clutching a suitcase looking up at the driver of a massive steam engine. The caption read, “I’m taking an early holiday ‘cos I know summer comes soonest in the south”.It was used unchanged from 1924 until the outbreak of the WWII. Later, he found a new challenge amongst the clouds.

Air-to-air artistry
Photography from the open cockpit of string and canvas biplanes had been practised by RFC photo-reconnaissance photographers like the late, great Haywood Magee during the first world-war.

Magee became an illustrious photographic journalist whilst Brown, a successful freelance, had turned his back on Fleet Street. Accepting commissions from aircraft manufacturers like Supermarine, De Havilland and Fairey Aviation to help market their new models, there was only one place for him to be - airborne. Soon, the Royal Air Force public relations department gave him many commissions, realised the potential of dramatic air-to-air photography for recruitment and other publicity purposes. It was an association that was to continue until his death at the age of eighty-six.

Throughout the 1930’s his reputation as an air-to-air photographer grew and with the outbreak of WWII, his workload increased. He was hired, not only by the Air Ministry, but the Admiralty and War Office as well.
It was then that he started using colour. In 1942, the US magazine, ‘Flying’, commissioned a picture series on the RAF. Colour film was in such short supply in the UK
, that the editor sent 100 sheets of 5”x4” Kodachrome sheet film to enable him to complete the job.

Post-war, his association with the RAF continued, gathering professional accolades on the way. Still fiercely independent, he worked, with three assistants from a converted house in Worcester Park, South London
An Honorary Fellow of the RPS, he retired in 1965 when, in an unprecedented gesture, the Air Ministry allocated him an RAF retirement home at Storrington, Sussex. The RAF Museum at Hendon had bought his entire collection of negatives and prints. The museum, in association with Airlife Publications Limited has published three volumes of his incomparable pictures, appropriately named, ‘Camera Above the Clouds’. They make a magnificent epitaph to a 20th Century Great.

John Yoxall (Aviation Photographer) 1897-1969

John Yoxall was Chief photographer of 'Flight' magazine from 1918-1939

Leslie Sansom (Aviation Photographer) 1913-1972

Aviation has been fortunate that its photographers have been artists first and
shutter-clickers a long way second. Charles Brown, John Yoxall, Charles Sims, Cyril Peckham and Leslie Sansom come immediately to mind-men of character and resource who, in pioneering their art, also founded a tradition.
His work on Vickers aircraft was memorable and was often done in the discomfort of an open cockpit or from a crouching position at the door sill of a chase plane which had no door. Leslie was essentially a mild and patient man, but blessed with an iron
determination to get, on every photo sortie, just the wing-angle, the sunglint
and the cloud formation he had visualised before taking off. He was,as he had to be, a master at coaxing 'just another' run from test pilots not yet attuned to the need for publicity and promotional photography. The successful results of that coaxing
have adorned the pages of Flight and its sister magazines world-wide over many years.

Russell Adams (Aviation Photographer) 1912-2000

Russell Adams FRPS was probably the pioneer photographer of the jet age. His dramatic air-to-air photographs of Britain's early jet fighters like the Gloster Meteor and Javelin regularly graced the pages of magazines and newspapers at home and overseas in the 1950s and early 60s. In fact, his photographs remain so popular that they are still used today with regularity by the aviation press.

Russell Adams' photographs so impressed his employers, the Gloster Aircraft Company, that in 1950 they made him their photographer. Unusually for the time, much of his work was air-to-air photography of the aircraft themselves, mainly Meteors and Javelins on test flights. In fact, Russell's photographic work was of such a high standard that he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. Adams actually flew aerobatic routines himself as a passenger in a camera aircraft, enabling him to get close to the display aircraft. The adrenaline kick of such high performance flying is vividly captured in his photographs.

Cyril Peckham (Aviation Photographer) 1905-1984

Cyril Peckham was a successful and well-known commercial artist and poster designer specialising in aviation subjects during the 1920s and 1930s. He had an active interest in photography and achieved the Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society. During the second world war he moved from illustrator to photographer and joined the General Aircraft Company and later the Hawker company. He was active in aerial photography and was the Chief Photographer to the Hawker Siddeley group of aircraft companies.