This book is built around the work of a series of British press photographers working for the group that owned The Times during the Second World War. At the time these men were largely anonymous, hidden behind general press attributions, but they were clearly skilled professionals who deserve to be better known.
The captions benefit from the author having access to the original wartime notes (produced by the photographers, for use by the people actually using them back at home), so there is more certainly about what the pictures were showing than in some similar books. There are also plenty of comments about the actual act of photography – including occasions when the photographers were told off for putting themselves in danger and insights into the technical aspects of their craft. One side effect of the use of a limited number of photographers is that the selection of photos is limited to the part of the front they were present on, so we get very few shots of American troops, and there are gaps when the photographers were absent from the front.
I didn’t realise that most press photographers of the period were still using glass plate cameras - my image of cameras of that period is dominated by the film cameras used in aircraft and the 35mm Leica film cameras (and various copies). The number of photos they were able to take with these more cumbersome photos are thus all the more impressive.
The pictures themselves are of a high quality, and because of the author’s access to the entire Times archive including many unfamiliar shots, including a number that were banned by the censors during the war (although the reason isn’t always clear). The result is a step above the normal picture book.
Author: Mark Barnes