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Monday, 25 December 2017

Glitz amid the Blitz: Stunning colour portraits reveal the famous faces and unsung heroes of WWII Britain

This stunning set of Second World War portraits show some of the earliest incarnations of a technique that would inject the photography industry with colour and rule supreme for nearly three-quarters of a century.
The photographs were taken by John Cyril Redhead, who headed up Kodak’s Photo Finishing department in Harrow, north-west London, using the then-revolutionary Kodachrome.
They highlight both famous faces and unsung heroes of the wartime in stunning detail, far beyond the limitations typical technology of its time that produced inferior black-and-white results.
From ordinary nurses and volunteers all the way to the royalty of Princess Margaret, Redhead was fascinated in creating portraits of a wide range of people, using his privileged access to the company’s hi-tech equipment.
Kodachrome is regarded as the first 'modern' colour photographic process by using a subtractive process of red-orange and blue-greens to add in colours as the photo was being taken – all of its predecessors for colour pictures used additives to transform black-and-white images.
Images such as these are so rare because Kodachrome was imported into Britain from the USA and was in very short supply during World War Two.
Kodachrome remained the most popular material for photography for 75 years following its invention in the mid-1930s, but was gradually discontinued after the turn of the century as digital photography came to the fore.

Popular singer and actress Pat Kirkwood (1921-2007), photographed in a glamorous pose lying on a sofa with a bearskin. She appeared in films with George Formby and Arthur Askey in the 1930s and 1940s. Although her ambitions for a Hollywood film career faltered after World War Two, she continued to work in theatre and television until the 1990s. She was the first woman to have her own television show on the BBC and once continued to perform at the London Palladium in the midst of an air raid

Popular singer and actress Pat Kirkwood (1921-2007), photographed in a glamorous pose lying on a sofa with a bearskin. She appeared in films with George Formby and Arthur Askey in the 1930s and 1940s. Although her ambitions for a Hollywood film career faltered after World War Two, she continued to work in theatre and television until the 1990s. She was the first woman to have her own television show on the BBC and once continued to perform at the London Palladium in the midst of an air raid
A Kodachrome colour photograph of a Miss B Hall, probably a Kodak employee who would have been one of Redhead’s employees while he was head of the company’s Photo Finishing department in Harrow, north-west London.

A Kodachrome colour photograph of a Miss B Hall, probably a Kodak employee who would have been one of Redhead’s employees while he was head of the company’s Photo Finishing department in Harrow, north-west London.

Lieutenant Doyle of the United States Army, taken by JCA Redhead (1886-1954) during World War Two.
Lieutenant Doyle of the United States Army, taken by JCA Redhead (1886-1954) during World War Two.

Civil Defence volunteer, Miss Carter, who wears the uniform of a Civil Defence ambulance driver and poses next to a Civil Defence flag. Volunteers, often women, were trained in civil defence duties, including fire-fighting, first aid and ambulance driving.
Civil Defence volunteer, Miss Carter, who wears the uniform of a Civil Defence ambulance driver and poses next to a Civil Defence flag. Volunteers, often women, were trained in civil defence duties, including fire-fighting, first aid and ambulance driving.

This Kodachrome image shows a woman named Mrs Bateman. She is wears the uniform of the United States Navy.
This Kodachrome image shows a woman named Mrs Bateman. She is wears the uniform of the United States Navy.


A young bride, taken by JCA Redhead (1886-1954) during World War Two.

A young bride, taken by JCA Redhead (1886-1954) during World War Two.

Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971), a pioneering female photographer and photojournalist wearing United States Army Airforce uniform. Bourke-White was the first female war correspondent and the first to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War Two. She survived the sinking of a ship, flew on American bombing raids and was one of the first photographers to enter and document the Nazi death camps.

Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971), a pioneering female photographer and photojournalist wearing United States Army Airforce uniform. Bourke-White was the first female war correspondent and the first to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War Two. She survived the sinking of a ship, flew on American bombing raids and was one of the first photographers to enter and document the Nazi death camps.

George Hill(1887-1952). The wine cellar clerk, is photographed in the wine cellar of the Reform Club on Pall Mall, London, a gentleman's club dating back to the 1830s. The club was used as the headquarters of the Liberal Party in the 19th Century, but is now simply used as a social venue with no association to any political organisations
George Hill(1887-1952). The wine cellar clerk, is photographed in the wine cellar of the Reform Club on Pall Mall, London, a gentleman's club dating back to the 1830s. The club was used as the headquarters of the Liberal Party in the 19th Century, but is now simply used as a social venue with no association to any political organisations


A Kodachrome colour photograph of Brigadier General Swinton, taken while he was in active service during World War Two. Brigadier General Swinton is wearing British army battle dress. His shoulder patch shows he is a Scots Guard
A Kodachrome colour photograph of Brigadier General Swinton, taken while he was in active service during World War Two. Brigadier General Swinton is wearing British army battle dress. His shoulder patch shows he is a Scots Guard

Major-General Lejeune, of the US Marine Corps. A veteran of the Spanish-American War, he was promoted to the rank of Major-General towards the end of the First World War, having commanded the US Army 2nd Division during the victorious action at the battle of St Mihiel. By the time this photograph was taken he was an elderly man and died midway through the Second World War, in 1942.

Major-General Lejeune, of the US Marine Corps. A veteran of the Spanish-American War, he was promoted to the rank of Major-General towards the end of the First World War, having commanded the US Army 2nd Division during the victorious action at the battle of St Mihiel. By the time this photograph was taken he was an elderly man and died midway through the Second World War, in 1942.

Colonel Seibert of the American Army, taken by JCA Redhead (1886-1954) during World War Two.

Colonel Seibert of the American Army, taken by JCA Redhead (1886-1954) during World War Two.


Colonel Nordlie, aide-de-camp to King Haakon VII (1872-1957) of Norway. Colonel Nordlie is photographed wearing Norwegian army uniform. King Haakon fled Norway when the Germans invaded in 1940, setting up a government in exile in London. An uncle of British monarch George VI, he returned to cheering crowds in Norway in July 1945 and continued to reign until his death 12 years after the war’s completion

Colonel Nordlie, aide-de-camp to King Haakon VII (1872-1957) of Norway. Colonel Nordlie is photographed wearing Norwegian army uniform. King Haakon fled Norway when the Germans invaded in 1940, setting up a government in exile in London. An uncle of British monarch George VI, he returned to cheering crowds in Norway in July 1945 and continued to reign until his death 12 years after the war’s completion

A nurse, Mrs Cooke. Nurses worked closer to the front lines than they ever had before. Within the "chain of evacuation" established by the Army Medical Department during the war, nurses served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes. The skill and dedication of these nurses contributed to the extremely low post-injury mortality rate among American military forces in every theatre of the war.
A nurse, Mrs Cooke. Nurses worked closer to the front lines than they ever had before. Within the "chain of evacuation" established by the Army Medical Department during the war, nurses served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes. The skill and dedication of these nurses contributed to the extremely low post-injury mortality rate among American military forces in every theatre of the war.

Mrs Claude Elliott dressed in the uniform of a Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) nurse. While many members of the WVS mucked in on pretty much all tasks, the idea of an organisation without a hierarchy would not have worked and so while there were no ranks, there were titles. Women were recruited for specific tasks, whether that was to drive ambulances, to be a member of a knitting work party or collect National Savings. Inevitably those women who signed up for one thing often ended up being co-opted for other work, especially if they showed aptitude.
Mrs Claude Elliott dressed in the uniform of a Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) nurse. While many members of the WVS mucked in on pretty much all tasks, the idea of an organisation without a hierarchy would not have worked and so while there were no ranks, there were titles. Women were recruited for specific tasks, whether that was to drive ambulances, to be a member of a knitting work party or collect National Savings. Inevitably those women who signed up for one thing often ended up being co-opted for other work, especially if they showed aptitude.

Princess Margaret (1930-2002), the Queen’s younger sister, aged about 12. Unlike other members of the royal family, Margaret was not expected to undertake any public or official duties during the war. She developed her skills at singing and playing the piano. Viscount Halisham had written to Winston Churchill encouraging the young princesses be evacuated to Canada, but the Queen Mother famously replied: ‘The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave.’
Princess Margaret (1930-2002), the Queen’s younger sister, aged about 12. Unlike other members of the royal family, Margaret was not expected to undertake any public or official duties during the war. She developed her skills at singing and playing the piano. Viscount Halisham had written to Winston Churchill encouraging the young princesses be evacuated to Canada, but the Queen Mother famously replied: ‘The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave.’

Sir Mordant Snagge in his judges wig and robes, taken by JCA Redhead (1886-1954) during World War Two.
Sir Mordant Snagge in his judges wig and robes, taken by JCA Redhead (1886-1954) during World War Two.


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