Saturday, 15 March 2008
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
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.
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
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
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
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' 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 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.