Macmillan: London, 1977 / photos © John Walmsley
Snaps were an innovative series intended to demonstrate how easy it could be to create books yourself, just with and for your own family. Leila felt anyone could do something similar, and probably should!
Leila and photographer John Walmsley created these books in partnership. John 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.
John Walmsley’s comments:
“We’d start with Leila’s overall concept, where she wanted to go with the stories, and we’d know the locations. Then we’d go with the kids/adults and let things happen. It was always, by its very nature, a bit of a lottery. We’d get some of what we expected, not other stuff but then the unexpected (good and bad) would happen. Lots of thinking on our feet and, from the photographer’s point of view, could I capture in silent, still images the essence of what was going on so Leila could make a story which made sense in itself and as part of a series. And, when shooting in public, would ‘the public’ be helpful enough to pretend we were not doing what we plainly were doing (mostly, yes, very amenable).”
Looking for Elephants
“Fading recollection tells me the dinosaurs were at Crystal Palace Park but I cannot recall where the children’s zoo was (Crystal Palace, too?). Certainly, they were both not too far from Leila’s home in Streatham, London.”
“Shot in Leila’s back garden. A lot to organise and shoot. We needed a shot of the kids in bed before they woke up so I arrived very early indeed. We could have set this up but it wouldn’t look the same. The unexpected in this story was Christie really hurting himself and needing a plaster on his knee. Shame for him but it gave a moment all kids could relate to and which they could talk about with the adult reading with them.”
“Shot at London’s Brixton Market one dark and cold morning. Stall holders very helpful but then they’d seen it all before. A real and unexpected moment was when Emily ‘saw a ghost’. She suddenly made this expression and I was lucky enough to capture it. The ‘ghost’ was a very large pair of men’s long johns hanging full length. My recollection is that Emily’s expression and the ‘ghost’ were not related but Leila immediately saw they could be used well in the storyline.”
Waiting for the Dark
“Shot on Tooting Bec Common and a walk back towards Streatham. From a photographer’s point of view, my favourite, with its use of fading and dramatic light to show the passing of daytime into evening.”