London: The Daily Telegraph, 3 June 1942. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill in the back garden of 10 Downing Street on 20 May 1942 accompanied by Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, and others during the negotiations for the Anglo-Soviet Treaty. The gelatin silver print on heavy matte photo paper measures 6.5 x 8.5 in (16.5 x 21.6 cm). Condition is very good. The paper is crisp, clean, and free of scratches with only very minor edge wear, slightly bumped corners, original crop markings, and six pin holes, three along the top edge and three along the bottom.
This press photo belonged to the working archives of The Daily Telegraph. The verso bears a copyright stamp, illegible save for the address and “Passed for Publication by Minister of Information.” One “PUBLISHED” stamp of The Daily Telegraph is dated “3 JUN 1942”, a second stamp dated “20 SEP 1960”. There are also handwritten printing notations and an original typed caption reading, “M. MOLOTOV RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PHOTOGRAPH ON THE TERRACE OF NO. 10, DOWNING STREET, AFTER HIS SECRET ARRIVAL TO NEGOTIATE THE ANGLO-RUSSIAN TREATY, SIGNED SIX DAYS LATER ON MAY 26.”
The Second World War alliance between Britain and the Soviet Union was essential but uneasy. Before the two nations made their formal alliance of necessity, the same Soviet Foreign Minister posing in this photo with Churchill at 10 Downing Street had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August 1939, promising mutual non-aggression with Nazi Germany. On 22 June 1941 the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was unceremoniously terminated when Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union. Churchill had long been a vehement anti-communist. Nevertheless he embraced the necessity of wartime alliance with the Soviets. “No one has been a more consistent opponent of Communism than I have for the last twenty-five years,” he told the British people over a broadcast on the day Germany invaded the Soviet Union. “I will unsay no word that I have spoken about it. But all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding. The past with its crimes, its follies and its tragedies, flashes away.” His concession was no indication of approval; he once said “If Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”
On 12 July 1941 the Anglo-Soviet Agreement was signed. On 20 May 1942 Molotov arrived in Britain to organize a more formal treaty between the nations. Churchill and Molotov did not share a warm regard. Churchill later wrote of the Foreign Minister “I have never seen a human being who more perfectly represented the modern conception of a robot”. (WSC, WWII, Vol. I p. 288-9) In a harbinger of the long Cold War to come, a point of friction was territorial provisions for Poland and the Baltic States. Anthony Eden suggested they leave this matter in suspension and a twenty-year treaty of friendship was signed on 26 May 1942. Not long after this very point of contention would again manifest with the post-war descent of the “Iron Curtain” across Eastern Europe. The long shadow cast by the events depicted in this photo is corroborated by the fact that this photograph was pulled out of the archives for re-publication on 20 September 1960.
During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism fundamentally changed the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives comprising physical copies of photographs, their versos typically marked with ink stamps and notes providing provenance and captions. Photo departments would often take brush, paint, pencil, and marker to the surface of photographs themselves to edit them before publication. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #005639