Alan Leonard: ‘Yep, it’s me around 1979, getting photobombed upstairs in The Cheshire Cheese, after a hard days caption writing at Ye Olde Central Press. Get this, it’s an original 5×7 B/W photo, taken by a Central Presser, printed in the Central Press darkroom, on Central Press paper, but no stamp on the back. It’s real though :)’

Here at the Press Photo History project we are collecting the memories of staff who worked in the numerous photo agencies of Fleet Street back in the day.
When ex photo agency employee’s of those agencies get to a certain age they start looking up their past and the friends they worked with. Some only work a summer or a couple of years straight from school then live a life away from the ‘street’ – some are still working as photographers, picture editors and a few still work in today’s photo agencies.

So it’s great when we do get an email out the blue from an ex Fleet St photo agency person who has been reading the Press Photo History project reminiscing.

Alan Leonard remembers his time at Central Press Photo agency 1978-1980 …and the Cheshire Cheese!

Hi Will – hope this email finds you well and in good health.

I was just enjoying looking at your Press Photos History Project – excellent work!

Particularly, the Central Press Photos articles… I worked at Central Press, 6-7 Gough Square, for a couple years as a young lad from 1978-1980, so thought I’d drop you a line.

I started work in the Central Press Photo Library, working for Bill Hulme, the Head Librarian, and eventually graduated to Caption Writer. I was just 19 years old.

I got the caption writing job only because the previous Caption Writer – a real character – was drunk most of the time, and eventually got himself fired. He used to pilfer the library petty cash box to finance his lunchtime boozing, down on Fleet Street. The final straw was he eventually got caught stealing a customer’s money order for some photographic prints, and Dennis Moore, who was boss at that time, after investigation, had to let him go.

I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but I remember it all as if it were yesterday.

By the way, this was all during the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper takeover era. Central Press was on its knees by then, the glory days long over, losing money fast, but they still had great photographers, great staff, that superb photo library, and those two magnificent buildings, 6-7 Gough Square.

I think Asharq Al-Awsat bought Central Press as their gateway into Fleet Street, if I recall correctly. But I have to hand it to them, they treated us well, left us alone, and we were able to carry on, and they kept Central Press going longer than it would have I think.

I left in 1980 so that’s as far as my history goes…. I left to live in the USA after that, and believe the collection was bought by Getty Images, if I’m not mistaken.

I remember many of the amazing people, everyone and anyone was always passing through, some very famous photographers, but here’s the names I remember though:
Dennis Moore
Bill Hulme
Rob McTaggart
Ricky McGregor
Denis Oulds
Gerd Truehaft
I don’t know if McTaggart or McGregor would remember me, I was just a kid, but I certainly remember them!

I met many fantastic people during that time on Fleet Street, and have many more stories; incredible photographers, incredible place, incredible photos, incredible time.

I live in California now, and often in the UK, so would have loved to have attended a reunion, if I’d known.

Cheers Will 🍻 .. here’s to the old Fleet Street, what a time! All those amazing characters! Keep up the great work!

Best Regards,

Alan Leonard

Alan Leonard today

Above photo: Alan today. Retired after 20 years as software designer at Oracle in Silicon Valley. Prior to that I was a psychotherapist. And prior to that I was an actor. (looking dapper in the photo below!)

Stage Actor Alan Leonard

• View all Central Press articles on the PPHP

• If you would like to contact Alan please email me on [email protected] and I will connect you.