This UPPA memory from photographer Bryn Campbell for the Press Photo History Project.
In 1958, I started work at Universal Pictorial Press, a small agency just around the corner from Fleet Street. I hoped that it would be the first stage of a career in photo-journalism.
The owner of the agency, Hector Smith, pitched his sights low, finding easier pickings than covering major new stories in competition with the larger Press agencies. He looked for news of promotions and appointments in the Armed Forces, the Church and other areas of public life, and arranged to photograph the people involved.. Small prints of the portraits were sent to the picture libraries of national and provincial newspapers, ready to be used when the subjects were in the news. The reproduction fees were small but they mounted up.
I was the only staff photographer and I learned how to deal with admirals, archbishops and politicians but I was totally out of my depth with the other side of my work, photographing pin-up girls. My boss was sending a boy to do a man’s job. The models were not paid; it was publicity they wanted. I photographed showgirls, exotic dancers, starlets and daring office girls. The agency did not have a studio, so I photographed the models in their homes.
On Saturdays, loaded down with a Speed Graphic camera, at least a dozen double-sided 5 x 4 inch cut-film holders, a flashgun and flashbulbs, I was sent to any society wedding that was happening in London, and then on to any football match at one of the big London clubs.
Photographing society weddings was a cut-throat business and, once again, I was out of my element, pushed aside as the specialist agencies competed for orders from the guests. My pictures went to local newspapers and small magazines.
At the football grounds, my work was finished before the game began. I was there only to take head and shoulders portraits of the players, especially the visiting team, as we already had pictures of most of the local footballers.
After I had worked at the agency for about a year, the owner’s son completed his National Service; I was sacked and he replaced me. Who would have guessed then that 5 years later, this cub photographer would have seemed important enough to Sir Winston Churchill’s son, Randolph, that he would attack me in print? But that is quite another story.
If you would like to contact Bryn drop me an email [email protected]