October 19th, 2009 admin

I received an unexpected gift before my talk at Host gallery last week. Fellow photographer John Wearing came up and presented me with a photograph that he’d taken after a Royal Photographic Society lecture that I’d attended back in October 1997. The photograph shows a keen young photographer -who’d recently moved to London to make his fortune – collaring the larger-than-life British photographer, Grace Robertson.

Robertson had just delivered a wonderfully inspiring lecture about her work and I was keen to meet her and hopefully show her some of my photographs (I sincerely hope that the cardboard folder under my arm wasn’t my portfolio of photographs!).

Me & Grace Robertson

©John Wearing, 28th October 1997

Robertson was a pioneering British photojournalists of the nineteen fifties and one of the few women to hold down a career in photojournalism at that time, and even then she found it necessary to work under the pseudonym Dick Muir. She was born in Scotland in 1930. After leaving school she looked after her mother who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. Her father gave her a second-hand camera in 1949 and the following year she had a photo story about her sister doing her homework published in the famous magazine Picture Post.

She worked as a freelance photographer for Picture Post (1950-7) for eight years documenting Britain’s post-war life and was known for the humour, sympathy and female perspective that she brought to her work. On the magazine she joined many of the leading photographers of the era, including Bert Hardy, Kurt Hutton, and her future husband Thurston Hopkins.

As a woman working for Picture Post she tended to be given the ‘softer’ assignments, although one of her stories, on the birth of a baby, was killed for being ‘too bloody’ (wars, evidently, were not). She also worked as a freelance for Life magazine in the 1950s. She continued to photograph while working as a teacher in the 1960s and 1970s, and began painting in the 1980s.

Robertson received an OBE for services to photography and her prints are represented by The Photographers’ Gallery, details of which you can find here.

Thanks for the memories John, although I’m not sure I needed reminding of that haircut!

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