London: Copyrighted by The Associated Press, published by The Daily Telegraph, 18 May 1942. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on 16 May 1942 delivering a speech at Leeds announcing a turning point of the war. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm). This press photo once belonged to the working archives of The Daily Telegraph. The image is striking in both composition and quality. Churchill before the microphone is almost lost among the teeming masses surrounding. The image viscerally conveys what Edward R. Murrow said of Churchill – that "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." Looking at this image, it is clear why Churchill would later receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in part “…for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values” (1953).
In addition to the composition, the image is of exceptional quality, high contrast with hundreds of faces in the audience crisp and clear. Condition is very good minus. The paper is crisp, clean, and free of scuffing with some edge wear, bruising to the corners, and some bruising on the left of the picture that is visible under raking light. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “The Associated Press”, a received stamp of The Daily Telegraph dated 18 MAY 1942, and a typed caption reading “MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL RECENTLY PAID A VISIT TO LEEDS, WHERE HE ADDRESSED THE HUGE CROWDS WHICH ASSEMBLED OUTSIDE THE TOWN HALL. LATER THE PRIME MINISTER TOURED THE INDUSTRIAL DISTRICTS OF THE TOWN.” This photograph is housed in a removable, archival mylar sleeve within a rigid, crimson cloth folder.
When Churchill became Prime Minister on 10 May 1940, the war for Britain was not so much a struggle for victory as a struggle to survive. Churchill’s first year in office had seen, among other near-calamities, the Battle of the Atlantic, the fall of France, evacuation at Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain. Two years later, during his 16 May 1942 speech at Leeds at which this image was captured, he was able to say "We have reached a period in the war when it would be premature to say that we have topped the ridge, but now we see the ridge ahead.” Churchill continued “We see that perseverance, unflinching, dogged, inexhaustible, tireless, valiant, will surely carry us and our allies, the great nations of the world, and the unfortunate nations who have been subjugated and enslaved, on to one of the most deep-founded movements of humanity which has taken place in our history." By November – a few months after this image was captured - Alexander’s and Montgomery’s victories at El Alamein prompted Churchill to confirm this notion of a fundamental change in the war effort, declaring “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism grew as a practice, fundamentally changing the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives, physical copies of all photographs published or deemed useful for potential future use, 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 #005241