Enquire A hotel commissionaire talking to a small dachshund dog in Piccadilly Circus, London. Original Publication: Picture Post - 2 - In The Heart of the Empire - pub. 1938 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Getty Images)
When Picture Post (1938 – 1957) was born on 1st October 1938 – under the genius editorship of Stefan Lorant – it arguably revolutionised the picture magazine market in the UK overnight. Picture Post was very much a pioneering publication and all but introduced the small format camera to Britain with photographers such as Bert Hardy, Kurt Hutton, Humphrey Spender and Bill Brandt converts to the revolutionary 35mm camera. The marriage between words and pictures contributed hugely to the success of the magazine and effectively defined the term photojournalism.
The instinctive use of natural light together with a genius for composition marked out Pictures Post’s ‘staffers’ from the run-of-the-mill press photographers of the day. However, it was also their uncanny ability to get close to their subjects that allowed them to consistently capture the raw emotion of the moment. The legacy left behind by these pioneering spirits is truly extraordinary and, without question, defined an era often referred to as ‘the golden age of photojournalism’. Picture Post magazine serves as a timely reminder that there once was a kind of journalism read by 5 million people a week (it was estimated that 1 person in 3 read the magazine in the UK at its peak) that could be both entertaining and responsible.
A veritable social documentary of Britain, issues such as racism, unemployment, housing and health made regular features, Picture Post also had a social conscience that brought a weekly bundle of hope into millions of homes between 1938 and 1957. Following the departure of Lorant who emigrated to the US, fearing a Nazi invasion of Britain, in 1940, his protégé Tom Hopkinson took up the reins and gathered a team of brilliant photographers and journalists to produce an inimitable cocktail of entertainment, culture and issues.
The time frame of 1945 – 1957 reveals a national journey from desperate war to bankrupt austerity, to fading imperial power. When it finally folded in 1957 the formats invented by the magazine enjoyed a new life as it’s journalists and photographers transferred to enrich factual television.