Associated Press, published by the Chicago Tribune, 1940. Photograph. This original wartime press photograph captures British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, accompanied by his close friend and chief scientific advisor Frederick Alexander Lindemann (aka "Prof"), watching an air battle from an observation post near Dover on 28 August 1940 during the Battle of Britain. Setting this image apart from many other press photographs are both that it was significantly augmented for publication, and that the results can be seen in the original newspaper clipping of the published photograph affixed to the verso of the image. The image was significantly cropped and sharpened by the Chicago Tribune artistic staff to focus on Churchill, cigar clenched in his teeth, steel helmet strapped on his head, peering intently as he raises binoculars to his eyes.
The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 7.25 x 9.375 inches (18.4 x 23.8 cm). Condition is very good. The paper shows only light wear and a touch of overall rippling. Art department augmentation is prominent in crop lines separating Churchill, in painting of the background within the crop to further isolate Churchill, and in outlining to clarify Churchill’s fingers, facial features, and kit. Affixed to the verso is an original newspaper clipping of the cropped and augmented image as published. The clipping attributes the image to “Associated Press Wirephoto” and is captioned “Wearing a steel helmet, Winston Churchill, British prime minister, watches an air battle on Aug. 28 from inside observation post near Dover.” The caption is ink-stamped “SEP 4 1940” and titled “Watches Air Battle”. An accompanying document testifies that this print is an original archive photograph of the Chicago Tribune.
This photo was captured on 28 August 1940 when Churchill, concerned by the effect of intensified German air raids on the British population, made “a visit to the South-East coast defences at Dover and Ramsgate”. Churchill returned to Downing Street ‘much affected…” by the plight of those whose homes had been damaged or destroyed. “The casualty figures from air bombardment for the week… were higher than any previous week: a total of 296 killed and 565 seriously injured.” And on 31 August, Churchill received news a ship taking children to the United States had been sunk, which “disturbed him particularly”. Churchill returned from Ramsgate “determined” to “browbeat the Chancellor of the Exchequer” into compensating “those whose houses had been destroyed or badly damaged.” (Gilbert, Vol. VI, pp. 760-764)
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 six months in office would see, among other near-calamities, the Battle of the Atlantic, the fall of France, evacuation at Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain. Hitler intended the Battle of Britain as the preparatory effort to gain air superiority prior to an invasion of England. The question was far from settled when this photograph was taken.
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, with 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 – as was quite dramatically done with this image - to edit them before publication. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #006011