Anthony Howarth

Memoirs of an International Photographer

An exhibition of work spanning three decades
with commentary by the photographer

To open the exhibition I have chosen four pictures. The first, from Korea, chose itself. The others are from Prague, the South China Sea and the Scottish Western Isles.International Herald Tribune 2000

In May 2000 I stumbled upon a front page picture in the International Herald Tribune which looked strangely familiar and, yet, unfamiliar.

The setting was clear - Panmunjom, the negotiation hut on the 38th parallel in the centre of the DMZ, the De-Militarised Zone between North and South Korea. It was the people and the mood that were unexpected.

Panmunjom, 1965
When I was last there, nearly half a century ago, the show, which even then had been running for a decade, was very different. For a start on the North Korean side were three or four North Koreans, stony faced and unyielding on issues of minute protocol and paper clips. While on the South Korean side there were two Americans, one Brit and one South Korean, all equally unyielding.

Panmunjom 1965

Symbolism apart, it was not a line up in which tact was likely to be a winner. Almost 60 years of people staring each other down across a little table in a little hut in the middle of nowhere is about as farcical as the human race can get. One can only hope that some of the three generations of participants can appreciate the humour as well as the tragedy of the situation in their old age. And that the Korean people can forgive - both sides.

Prague, 1962
My first evening in Prague, possibly my first evening behind the so-called Iron Curtain, I slipped out of my hotel un-watched and apparently not followed by any guide or interpreter. I walked across the famous Charles bridge towards the giant statue of Stalin. I followed the sounds of decidedly American Country and Western music, until I found, sitting on the plinth of the monument, a group of young people with guitars. They were dwarfed by Stalin and what the Czechs then called The Meat Queue.

Prague 1962

This picture became a fitting introduction to the story which made the cover   and 12 pages in the Sunday Times Colour Supplement under the headline The Land of The Mellowing Marxists. The b/w picture was shot with a Nikon SP, 28mm lens. Ian Coulter wrote the story.

Dateline: Manila, USS Constellation
- the South China Sea.
1965, the cold war. Telegraph Magazine cover from the story 7th Fleet, Giant in Chains. Shot immediately after the Gulf of Tonkin incident and before the massive bombardment of North Vietnam by US carrier launched planes had officially started. This one got me a colour photo essay British Press Pictures of The Year Award. The red comes from the colour of the night light on the carrier’s launch deck not from a filter.

7thFleet 1965

For me this story has three sobering memories.

The duplicity of military PR was never clearer - the full scale bombing had started long long before it was announced or admitted.

On shipping my film I received a cable, opened to my embarrassment by Frank Robertson, the journalist who wrote the story. “First batch of film totally over exposed. Thanks John” (John Anstey long time editor of the Telegraph Magazine). I had to wait two days in Hong Kong for the antidote, “Faulty thermometer, rest of film excellent, proceed Koreawards. Thanks John.”

Back in England, working on a story in industrial Lancashire, walking down a street in Rochdale, I noticed that the fish and chips I was eating were wrapped in my 7th Fleet story! A reminder that getting an award does nothing to ensure the permanence of journalism - words or pictures.

1962, the Scottish Western Isles.
I don’t remember which one. It could have been North or South Uist, or Lewis and Harris or Barra. The dated caption on the back reads, “Crofters take a rest from peat cutting. Black houses in the background are no longer inhabited.”


Taken with the relatively un-obtrusive Nikon SP (non-reflex Nikon, modelled on pre-WWII rangefinder Contax) with a 28mm lens, this picture exhibits the distortion that publishers and photographers, myself included, were then starting to foist on the public in the name of intimacy and ‘presence’.

In the whole of my career as a photographer I only received two useful bits of advice and they were effectively the same although the first was less cynical.

Larry Burroughs of Life Magazine, who sadly died in Nixon’s ill fated Cambodian adventure, said, “Put on a wide angle and get in close. Make yourself part of the group. Photograph it from the inside, not as a spectator from the outside. Don’t worry about distortion, you will learn how to control that. In any case, it is all in the eye of the reader.”

Mark Boxer of Queen and later the Sunday Times Colour Supplement, said, “Never take a picture that the readers can take or think they can take with a Kodak Instamatic. Always surprise the public. Photograph a close up with a wide angle lens and a landscape with a telephoto lens. Avoid the visually obvious, be perverse.”

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