A PICTURE POST PHOTOGRAPHER: HAYWOOD MAGEE
In many ways, Haywood Magee was the archetypal Picture Post staffer: highly professional, a fast and adaptable worker, chasing stories at the drop of a hat, eccentric, with a strong sense of humour.
But he was also unique, his own man, with a story of his own. Compared to many of the Picture Post staff, he was relatively old - already in his early 40s when he joined the magazine.
He had worked extensively on other magazines and newspapers, and as an aerial reconnaissance photographer for the Royal Flying Corps, later the RAF. He had already developed a strong sense of how to build a narrative from photographs, how to create a picture story.
He wasn’t learning his craft, as many Picture Post photographers and writers were; he was already steeped in it.
What was he like ?
John Chillingworth, who knew him as a young Picture Post protégé, recalls him as “a kind, sometimes taciturn, laconic character” and adds: “he was loved and respected by all who knew and worked with him”.
His family - his daughter Toni, his daughter-in-law Nan and his grandson Doug - portray him as “a quiet man” who “didn’t talk much about anything” and was “quite happy not to socialise…but when he did he went mad” (they think this may have been a legacy of the RAF mess culture).
But they recognise that he was probably more outgoing when away from home. “A ladies man”, he had blue eyes, “thought a lot of his own looks”, was ”quite vain” and “liked to be admired”.
“Mac” was happy to be perceived as unconventional, even odd: his daughter recalls that was delighted to be mistaken for a tinker, when he was seen playing the violin by the roadside, on a regular family camping trip to Scotland.
He was not, she thinks, “a natural mixer”, but he was good (as a Picture Post photographer needed to be) with a wide range of people - from sheep farmers to deposed European royalty, from fishwives to celebrities.
As a well-known member of a small Fleet Street press pack, he knew most leading politicians and a host of film stars and actors.
Grace Robertson, then a very young member of the Picture Post team, remembers this more convivial, outgoing side of “Mac”:
“I remember approaching the photographer's room one day and right in the middle of Haywood Magee telling a story. I stopped to listen.
The story appeared to be Mac, when he'd gone to do a story among the Eskimos and he was explaining how he made love to an Eskimo woman in an igloo.
So I'm quite fascinated, and I'm standing and listening, and then I realized that somebody was coming along. It looked bad, me standing outside. I stepped forward and the story stopped stone dead. They stopped anything like that when I walked into the room...”