John Hillelson – Magnum UK Agent 1958 – 1981 Dies

By February 15, 2012 December 21st, 2020 Will Carleton

Photo: November 1953 John Hillelson, Paris Editor of U.P. (UPI) greets U.P. Vice President Mins Thomason on his arrival at Paris Airport, France. Credit:

Photographic agent John Hillelson owner of the John Hillelson Agency died yesterday – Monday 13th February in hospital. He was 89.
John was the London Agent for photo agency Magnum from 1958 until 1987 when Magnum opened a London office. He worked closely with the agency’s founding members and remained in close contact with them until his death.

The John Hillelson Agency. Fleet Street. Early 1950’s to mid 1990’s. Taken over by SYGMA, bought by Corbis. (info from Neil Burgess, NB Pictures)

from the British Library: ‘Born Apr 13 1923 in East Prussia and arrived in Britain in 1934 fleeing from Nazism. Classified as an enemy alien in 1939. Job as a caption writer at the Keystone picture agency. Served with RAF as a wireless operator in North Africa and Mediterranean then in Europe after D-Day landings. Disarmament Commission. Rejoined Keystone after demobilisation in 1946. Then “Planet News” in 1948. Competition between press agencies. Picture editor at “Weekend Mail” then in 1958 opened John Hillelson Agency at 145 Fleet Street, representing Magnum Photos in the UK.’

Mark Haworth Booth interviewed Hillelson for the The British Library’s Oral History of British Photography series, those interviews can be accessed here.

Images of John on Magnum Photos

Industry reaction:
“As a publisher I negotiated once or twice with John in his Fleet Street office and found his prices were the highest always. He was courteous and charming in telling me that his material was the best and I usually weakly agreed to the fees. His photographers must have been pleased with him.” Alan Smith, Topfoto.