Picture Post

Colin Jacobson looks at the history of a pioneering photojournalism magazine.

The demise of a magazine is a sad occasion and it may seem strange to be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the last edition of the British weekly Picture Post. Published in a time before television and the weekend colour magazines, it provided a mass audience with a lively, witty and comprehensible weekly diet of political, social and cultural features.

Launched on October 1st, 1938, Picture Post was an overnight success. Its initial print run of 750,000 sold out; by the summer of 1939 it had achieved a circulation of 1.7 million and was firmly lodged in the national psyche. Its visual style was to become hugely influential in the development of British photojournalism.

Prior to the Second World War, Britain remained a rigidly entrenched society and most magazines concentrated on the life and times of the middle and upper classes. Despite the Conservative connections of proprietor Edward Hulton (1906-88), Picture Post’s editors, first Hungarian émigré Stefan Lorant and, from 1940 to 1950, Tom Hopkinson, declared a brave new agenda; it was to be a window on the world for ordinary people and its features would include the realities of working class life. It took its readers seriously, did not speak down to them and assumed (correctly) that they would take an intelligent interest in subjects beyond their own immediate ex­perience.

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