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Picture Post Magazine Anniversary Series – Part 3: The First Staffers

March 26, 2013 | By Sarah McDonald | Archive, Photojournalism

Hulton Archive celebrates the 75th anniversary of Picture Post magazine in October 2013 and in this monthly series we’re taking a look at some of the key players who helped create the magazine’s lasting reputation as a leader of 20th century photojournalism.

When, in 1934, Stefan Lorant was asked to revamp Weekly Illustrated along the lines of pictorial magazines he’d edited in Germany he had a problem. The British press was still using heavy old plate cameras with produced static single images, wholly unsuitable for the modern photo-essay format.

One rare exception was Haywood Magee and Lorant quickly signed him to the magazine. Lorant also persuaded fellow émigrés and Leica veterans Felix H Man (Hans Baumann) and Kurt Hutton (Kurt Hubschmann) to work with him, as they had done in pre-Hitler Germany. Naturally, four years later, it was this trio to whom Lorant offered the first assignments on Hulton’s new picture weekly Picture Post.

Magee, who’d photographed from open cockpits of WWI canvas bi-planes in his youth, was a gifted photographer with a gentle humor to his work. Highly respected by Tom Hopkinson, he remained on staff until finally retiring when Picture Post folded in 1957.

However the two principle early contributors were Man and Hutton, both experienced in the European photo-essay style still so fresh in England. The first issue was almost entirely shot by Man and he became chief photographer, working prolifically until the end of the war. Although they both used anglicized versions of their names, Man and Hutton remained uncredited in the magazine until after the war and amidst increasing anti-German feeling were both briefly interned as enemy aliens in 1940. By the time they were released Lorant had emigrated to America and Hopkinson had taken over as Editor.

Felix H Man is now referred to as one of the ‘fathers of modern picture journalism.’ He was a pictorial magazine editor’s dream, with a genius for visualizing each picture story in layout form as he was taking the shots, even shooting key images in portrait and landscape for the editor. Hopkinson remarked on his economy when shooting, taking very little material that would not eventually be used.His academic arts training and intuitive, natural, humanist approach perfectly suited Picture Post.

After a brief spell studying and collecting lithographs, Man returned to Picture Post in 1948, traveling on the continent as the magazine’s color specialist. His work appeared in Harpers Bazaar, Life, Sports Illustrated and The Sunday Times until he returned to Europe in 1958 working as an editor and writer. He died in 1985, having received numerous awards including The Great Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany, the country he had left 50 years earlier.

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A grubby-faced child sitting at a sparse dinner table in Wigan. Original Publication: Picture Post – 228 – Wigan – pub. 1939 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Getty Images)

It was Man who introduced Kurt Hutton to 35mm cameras in Germany and Hutton remained faithful to his Leica and Contax and a relatively limited array of Sonnar and Elmar lenses, throughout his career. He preferred to travel as light as possible, working with natural light and rarely using flash.

Like Man, Hutton allowed the whole photo-story to develop naturally rather than chasing a premeditated shot. Even so some of Picture Post’s iconic photographs – The Commissionaire’s Dog, Southend Fair – were taken by Hutton. Despite his German heritage Hutton was the epitome of a retiring English gentleman sporting a characteristic tweed jacket and monocle. During his semi-retirement he continued submitting to the magazine until its closure in 1957, with a final tally of over 900 photo-essays – almost a story a week. At the same time he also acted as photographic biographer to composer Benjamin Britten. He died in Suffolk in 1960 at age 67.

Between them, Man and Hutton inspired a generation of British photojournalists – including Bert Hardy, John Chillingworth and Thurston Hopkins – who themselves championed small format cameras, avoided using flash, and thought in terms of picture stories rather than decisive moments.

Editor’s note: Sarah McDonald is a Curator of Editorial Imagery for Getty Images, based at the Hulton Archive. Next month she’ll focus on the centenarian Picture Post photographer, Thurston Hopkins.

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