London’s East End

June 1957

Could this be the last photo taken by Picture Post ?

Frank got into photography inspired by photographs taken by his Dad who had traveled the world with the Royal Marines.

Views of the Far East and of ships of the Royal Navy adorned the home. Photos hung on every wall. Further inspiration came from the weekly arrival of the Picture Post magazine.

At seven years old Frank Pocklington was taking pictures on a homemade pinhole camera with the help of his older brother.

After leaving school at fourteen he got a job as a messenger on the Times Newspaper but hated it and left as soon as he could, joining the Hulton Press as a messenger for the Picture Post and their sister publications ‘Housewife’, ‘The Leader’ and ‘Farmers Weekly’. Two years as a messenger and then into the darkroom in 1945 and a few more years later, in 1952 he was handed a camera and sent off on his first assignment.

After a picture editor test of photographing a large clock in a shop window in Covent Garden, a proper assignment came along and he was sent to Burghead near Elgin in Scotland where a three-masted schooner was docked.

The training ship run by Outward Bound, a youth charity was going to be the subject of a Picture Post photo spread. Frank was expected to meet the reporter Tim Raison but due to London congestion, Frank missed his berth on the overnight sleeper out of Euston and had to catch the next train at 1100 hrs the following morning. A poor start to his photography career.

At Picture Post his inspiration was photographer Bert Hardy ‘he was the tops’ Frank tells us.

He was a also great fan of photographer Haywood Magee who gave Frank his photography bag, which he still owns over sixty years later when Haywood went off to join the Royal Flying Corps and took the first aerial photographs of Troy in August 1923.

Frank was asked about his favourite story for Picture Post. He told us that it was the last one he ever took for the magazine in June 1957. He was assigned to a photo essay about retired east enders and the financial hardships that they were suffering. It was a photograph of a woman sitting at a table having her lunch, which was never published due to the news that greeted him when he returned to the office.

The staff were gathered in editorial and were being addressed by Edward Hulton ” it’s all over. I have decided to fold the magazine” he told the anxious staff. As Edward Hulton was leaving the room after delivering this bombshell the phone rang, in the shocked silence of the newsroom, the theatre critic, picked the phone up and answered the inquirer with the response ‘ I’m sorry he has just jumped out of the window’.

Picture Post had finally been overtaken by the new kid on the block, Television. Advertisers were deserting Picture Post in droves in preference for the new medium and along with the controversy of a picture story shot in Korea that the publisher was against, but was published despite his instructions otherwise, Picture Post was gone.

Pondering his future Frank gathered along with the other photographers around the Picture Desk.

”Bill Stacey picture editor of the Picture Post was sitting at his desk when the phone rang. After listening to the caller, Bill responded and said ‘yes he’s here ‘ and passed me the phone.

Don Harker, who worked at Granada TV had already heard on the grapevine that Picture Post was going and he asked me to come to see him at Golden Square, London, the headquarters of Granada TV.

As I was expecting to leave the offices for Picture Post, I decided that I should keep a souvenir, and I noticed a bound book of Picture Posts signed by Stefan Lorant which I secreted out of the office in a big black bag and still keep to this day.

The next morning I went to Golden Square where I was offered a job!

As a test I was sent to Manchester to photograph the production studios of Granada in action, so adopting a Picture Post approach to the assignment I returned to Golden Square with what I thought was not a bad job.

In fact, I had done such a good job I won an award in the Encyclopedia Britannica Photography awards in the sequence category.

The following week I was sent back to Manchester, but this time to appear on a Grenada TV programme ”Scene at 6.30” , hosted by Bill Grundy to talk about the photographs!

On the day that Picture Post closed another of the Post photographers, Charles ‘Slim’ Hewitt and reporter Trevor Philpott were on an assignment.

Slim had been sent by Picture Post to photograph a sailing ship with an all-girl crew and a male captain. Luckily Slim had taken with him his Bell and Howell movie camera so on hearing the news of the collapse of Picture Post he immediately swopped his Leica for his 16mm movie camera and a week later the piece by Philpott and Hewitt went out on the BBC Tonight program.

Nearly all the old Picture Post journalists went on to the Tonight programme eventually, Trevor Philpott, Kenneth Allsopp, Macdonald Hastings (Max’s father) and Fyfe Robertson.

At the wedding of Frank and Linda ,Slim persuaded me to join him as a freelance sound engineer providing stories for BBC’s Tonight programme . Tonight was live on weekday evenings from 18 February 1957 to 18 June 1965.

I thought I would give it a try and 18 months later we were on assignment in Egypt doing a piece about the construction of the Aswan Dam.

On the day of filming Slim was laid low by a bug but we were expected to go to Aswan so Trevor and I went off to Aswan and we left Slim to recover. That day I did all the day’s filming.

In 1957 while working with the Tonight programme we were joined by a rising star by the name of Alan Whicker , he started with a small section of the Tonight program but soon grew to become a programme in its own right and I joined the unit as a cameraman and continued to work with Whicker when the programme went to Yorkshire TV.

I accompanied Whicker on eighty programs, two tours a year, traveling widely around the world.

Alan Coren when talking about an early Whicker programme with the Vancouver police said that the films always reminded him of Picture Post unaware that the cameraman had been a staff photographer on the magazine.

Frank also worked on three series of ‘In Loving Memory’ with Thora Hird and filmed the ‘New Statesman’ with Rick Mayall.

In 1989 Frank received an International Emmy for the story of the My Lai massacre, the story of the rape and torture, and finally, the massacre of Vietnamese civilians.

Film was on the way out and video was on the way in and Frank hated video

Frank retired in 1989 when film progressed to tape, at the age of 58 to his home in the South of France where he now lives with his wife Linda.


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