London: Pictorial Press Ltd., 1945. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill accompanied by his wife, Clementine, in his Woodford constituency on 26 May 1945 giving his first speech of the 1945 General Election that would end his wartime premiership two months later on 26 July 1945. The gelatin silver print on glossy photo paper measures 9.25 x 11.25 inches (23.5 x 28.6 cm). Condition is very good minus. The paper is crisp with some wear along the edges, a crease at the upper left corner, a small closed tear to the top edge above Clementine’s shoulder, finger prints at the upper right edge that appear to be original to the photo’s developing out, and light scuffing visible only under raking light.
Despite some evidence of age and provenance, this is nonetheless a strikingly clear and candid image, catching both Winston and Clementine with engaging expressions. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Pictorial Press Ltd.”, a stamp of the “International Magazine Service”, a sticker of “IMS Bildbyrå” (with a Stockholm address), an ink stamp of what is presumably an identification number, and some handwritten notations.
The General Election of July 1945 was Britain’s first since 1935. Churchill started campaigning with a 26 May visit to his Woodford constituency, where this photograph was taken. Britain had celebrated VE day just eighteen days earlier. Despite the rain, great crowds showed up to express their admiration and get a glimpse of the man who led them to victory. The experience was an emotional one for Churchill; newspapers reported that the Premier shed a tear as he was greeted by the crowds. “It was not ‘the Prime Minister, the Right Hon Winston Churchill’ visiting his division, but ‘Our member, Mr. Churchill.’ Sometimes it was even ‘Dear old Winnie.’” (Chelmsford Chronicle, 1 June 1945)
Churchill gave a stirring speech from the back of an open car, in which he and Clementine are here pictured. Churchill’s opening words of celebration turned sharply to the reality at hand, “The great victory in Europe has been won. Enormous problems lie before us.” Churchill had warred with his own Conservative Party throughout the 1930s. Now, despite his personal popularity and a resounding personal victory in his Woodford constituency, his Conservative Party would cost him the premiership. On 26 July 1945, despite having done so much to win the war, Churchill faced frustration of his postwar plans when his wartime government fell to Labour’s landslide General Election victory over the Conservatives. He would be relegated to Leader of the Opposition for more than six years until the October 1951 General Election, when Churchill’s Conservatives outpaced Labour, returning Churchill to 10 Downing Street for his second and final premiership.
This press photo once belonged to a working newspaper archive. 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 of 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 #005360