A PICTURE POST PHOTOGRAPHER: HAYWOOD MAGEE
Paratroopers, from 1944, is less tense, on home ground: Magee, the veteran airman, joins a group of paratroopers on a training exercise as they pack into the cramped hold of a bomber.
One by one they descend through the opening out into the empty sky. Magee goes beyond the conventional shots of soldiers preparing for the jump, leaving the plane and landing: he gives one of the soldiers a camera to take photos on the way down (selfies, in today’s language).
The out-of-focus shots give the story an immediacy, intimacy and drama which is completely justifies the headline: “A Paratrooper Makes a Jump — And We Jump with Him.”
This is the Scene from our Office Window (1941)
Other stories show the huge destructive impact of the Blitz.
Magee himself appears in one, perched on the edge of a ruined building focussing his camera on the devastation, in the story This is The Scene From Our Office Window (1941), showing Picture Post’s readers the effects of German bombing on the area around Fleet Street and St Pauls.
Magee’s photos portray workmen, their faces covered in dust, carefully picking through the ruins to remove rubble and pull down buildings at risk of collapse. The danger and difficulty of the work is emphasised by the text.
Another harrowing assignment must have been the aftermath of the V-2 bomb which shattered Farringdon Market on 8 March 1945, killing 110 people and seriously injuring hundreds of others. It’s a scene of devastation as bleak as any post-War disaster.
At the centre of one photo, two men carry an injured man towards us, as another gesticulates; rescuers and victims are seen dimly through the smoke, against the wrecked metal outline of the market.
The event must have been too bleak for the Wartime censors: One Story We Couldn’t Tell was finally published in 1948.
A story from 1945, Battle Exhaustion, is a powerful portrayal of the toll of battle: a soldier crawling out from beside a dead companion in a foxhole, his face in anguish, chaos all around:
An American soldier suffering from battle shock is given a sedative, lying stricken between his two comrades:
At the end of the War, there is no sense of victorious Allies, only futility.