British photographic history

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Archive: John Vickers theatrical photography / University of Bristol

John Vickers was a theatre photographer of note from the 1930s onwards. A comprehensive archive of documents following Vickers’ career throughout the 1940s and 1950s compliments the London Old Vic collection which is also held at the University of Bristol. Included in the collection are glass plate negatives, prints, framed items,correspondence and ephemera.

John Vickers began his career by working as assistant to photographer Angus McBean in the 1930s, himself a famous name in the world of theatrical photography. From 1939 until the time of his death, he ran his own studio. After the war Vickers made a name for himself and became well known as a theatre photographer. He worked for many London theatres including, most famously the Old Vic. 

He photographed over 1,000 productions and his portraits of actors (such as Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier), writers and musicians gained him a high reputation.

Throughout his photography the influence of Angus McBean can easily be seen, especially in some of his early, more surrealist work.

The legacy of John Vickers can be seen to continue with the photography of Mario Testino, who was his assistant in the 1970s until his death.

What the collection holds

In photographic terms the archive comprises c. 8,000 prints, 20,000 glass plate negatives, 20,000 roll film negatives, and 1,800 colour slides. In addition there are 25 boxes of manuscript material, including articles, teaching manuals, monographs, correspondence (business and personal), journals, card indexes, business papers, covering the whole working life of Vickers. There is also a library of photographic and theatre related material.

The online catalogue for this collection can be viewed here: JV - The John Vickers Archive.

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