Picture Stories


5. Post-War


Magee’s output after the War is relentless, although inevitably it has a more optimistic feel. 

Like all Picture Post photographers, he partnered with writers on each of his assignments. The photographer David Steen remembers that he had a strong working relationship with the writer Robert Kee, later to become famous as a historian, but he also partnered with distinguished writers such as Fyfe Robertson, Katherine Whitehorn and Hilda Marchant.

A brief selection of post-War stories gives a sense of the sheer range of his work.

The drunk playwright

Behan’s Last Night Out in London (1956) follows the dishevelled alcoholic playwright Brendan Behan to the Fitzroy Tavern in London, the night after he had given a sensational drunken interview on “Panorama”. Magee captures Behan’s mix of roguishness, charm and depression.


 The tattoo artist

 “Aldershot Tattoo(1951) portrays tattoo artist Jessie Knight, the only woman employed in her trade, as she tattoos a group of servicewomen. In one photo, a woman screams in pain at the needle;  others show her customers’ excitement at their transgressive tattoos.


Honeymoon couples 

Honeymoon in Jersey (1953) follows a group of honeymoon couples to a hotel in Jersey, and onto the beach, where they join in a three-legged race, a sack race, and a wheelbarrow race, exuberantly throwing themselves across the sand – the men with trousers and shirts rolled up, the women in skirts and dresses. 

It is both uninhibited and innocent, and feels a particular moment in time: 8 years after the liberation of Jersey, a decade before the sexual revolution and the start of women’s liberation. 



In “Olympic Games” (1948), Magee records scenes from the London Olympics, held under austerity conditions in White City and Wembley Stadium. 

His camera is more interested in the ordinary than the heroic, as if the spectators are the real focus of attention:


He also shoots behind-the-scenes, showing members of the Korean team (a wrestler on his bed, a female discus-thrower chatting to her chaperone, Korean chefs in their kitchen), billeted in basic accommodation at an RAF camp in Uxbridge. 


Herring Girl Ladies

Another "classic picture story" from 1948 is about herring workers in Yarmouth, discussed in this extract from PICTURE STORIES by the documentary photographer Daniel Meadows.

Daniel Meadows on the Herring Girl Ladies

                            6. Black experience >