Fleetway's Photographic Studio

The Eagle Annual for 1963, front cover photograph by Jim Williams.

Now we all remember with affection such titles as Eagle, Top Spot, Look and Learn, Princess and Jack and Jill, but do you remember that apart from the great artwork there were also photographs accompanying the stories?

Well I recently got an email from Jim Williams who worked in the photographic studio at Fleetway from the early 1960's, this is what he has to say about those times:

Well the studio was built about 1962 and was very well equipped and it was very interesting to work there though I don't remember Top Spot I'm afraid.

There were about five of us photographers with assistants ( I started as an assistant.) They thought I was pretty good with kids, so I got a lot of that stuff, but it was not high on our agenda's as fashion and beauty carried more kudos! I usually shot for the comics on a Friday, do you know we shot on 10 x8 colour then, not easy with kids!! Princess gave me a lot of work, and I shot a cover and a back page each week. The back page was always a cute animal shot.Still on 10 by 8. slide camera.

One day the shot was a canary placed on a house of cards. The camera, I and my assistant were ready, and the bird was placed in position on the cards. It promptly flew up into the ceiling, where one of the ceiling tiles was missing. This was a damn big studio, and the whole company was very unionised. So to retrieve the bird, we had a crew of safety officers, carpenters, firemen, plumbers and electricians to remove the remaining tiles one by one till we recovered the bird. I remember it took quite a while.

Once I was flown up to Scotland to shoot a soldier by his tank. The officers entertained us to a great lunch, eventually I said "what about the shoot?" "Ah yes," they said and drove us up and down various mountains, and as the sun was setting I shot a man outside his tank, I think he had been waiting there all day. That was for the 1963 Eagle Annual (see photo).

A lot of the child models went on to become well known in films etc, and I had the idea of shooting them with their own children but never got round to it. I guess it would be with their grand kids now.

When I went freelance I still had a few commisions from the Eagle and Girl annuals etc. The 1966, water skier was a story, as the skier agreed to use a very short tow rope, to help me get a great shot.

Hope this hasn't been too boring. By the way a mag that used a lot of photographers was a great mag called Look and Learn. They were going to send me up with the RAF areobatics team Red Arrows thank God they never got round to it!!

Thank you Jim, for high-lighting an aspect of Fleetway that has rarely, if ever been touched upon.


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