Methuen Children’s Books: London, ’81 / photos by John Walmsley
Leila and photographer John Walmsley created these books in partnership, and they were seeded by Leila’s conversations with small children belonging to friends, family, and in libraries and schools.
John Walmsley is a professional freelancer who has specialised in pictures of children at play and in school. Some of his photos are held in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery, London and La Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. He has a website at walmsleyblackandwhite.com.
John Walmsley’s comments:
“Leila started with an overall concept and, to fulfil it, we used a mixture of shots I had already taken at various times and ones we set out to take (sometimes I’d work alone and other times we’d both be there. Leila had to go through hundreds of colour slides before knowing what new ones were needed.
By this time, I was living as a ‘Fellow’ of the Digswell Arts Trust just on the outskirts of Welwyn Garden City. This was where artists of all kinds, painters, potters, a film maker, jazz musicians, weaver, sculptors etc. lived and worked. I built and ran a public darkroom. At the same time I was a part-time lecturer at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.”
In a House I Know
“I think all the photos were shot specially, mostly at the home of a young mum Leila knew. In those days, indoor photos were mostly lit by large flash heads on stands so there had to be a lot of careful setting up before we could shoot. Quite different now with modern cameras.”
“Almost all from existing photos except the ones of the girl at the flower shop and the boy driving a car.”
The Hot, Hot Day
“All photos were shot specially for this title. The sandpit ones at the Arts Centre where I lived and the ones of the boy (Leila’s grandson) in Streatham, London.”
“Specially shot for this title was the sequence of the girl and her dog, local to me, and the end shots of kids in bed and the anticipation of a tickle (folk at the artists’ centre).”
“…having much enjoyed writing these bits I realised some of these shots could not be done these days. People would ask what we’re doing, why are we photographing kids and with their kids in the background. You used to be able to shoot in the street and no-one would bother you. Now, if you’re shooting there and any young kids, teenagers, come by, the police will arrive within 5 minutes. On TV and on some school websites, kids’ faces are blurred out. What subliminal message does that send out?”
(text copyright John Walmsley, 2016)