Incredible images tell the fascinating story of iconic UK photo magazine Picture Post

ByDavid M. Conte

Sep 18, 2021

Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill contributed articles and the rich and famous performed on the covers of Picture Post, including Elizabeth Taylor

Every photo tells a story … and few have done it more or better than the iconic Picture Post magazine.

Years ahead of its time, the publication changed the way people viewed British life, peeling layers of society many had never seen.

There could be photos of the rich and famous – or, similarly, of the working class who was the backbone of Britain during the dark days of the war.

Now a new documentary tells the story of the weekly magazine.

The first edition, on October 1, 1938, was due to founder Stefan Lorant, photojournalist and social activist.

The Hungarian Jewish refugee came here after being released from prison in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

The initial circulation of 750,000 sold in hours. Five million readers at its peak during WWII made it Britain’s best-selling magazine.

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The reports covered ordinary families from Wigan to London, with in-depth stories of the herring girls of Yarmouth, the razor gangs of Glasgow and the unemployed of Peckham.

But it was not all gloomy. There were playful images, like a woman looking at cacti in bewilderment. The wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an occasional friend of Lorant, wrote articles early on.

The magazine championed better working conditions, a health service and a welfare state. But a change of management came in the 1950s after Lorant relinquished editorial management.

The first pages contained pictures of pretty women and stars instead of social issues.

When television took off readership plummeted and the magazine closed in 1957. But director Rob West believes his legacy lives on, saying “documentary photography”.

  • Picture Stories: Picture Post and the Photography of Ordinary Life, hits theaters this Friday and as a digital download on September 30.

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