Born Hans Gohler in 1909 in Germany he moved to Britain in 1933 following Hitlers appointment as chancellor. Changing his name to John Gay he settled in London beginning his career as a commercial photographer until the outbreak of the Second World War where he enlisted into the British Army serving until the end. Working in and around the Highgate area of London Gay had a varied client list, working with portraiture while also continuing with his commercial work.
John Gay captured what many still attribute to be the quintessential beach environment, taken in 1949 he captured the Blackpool seaside complete with the holiday makers for Country Fair magazine. Following this he produced or was part of six books focusing on areas of his photographic interest, namely architecture, nature, and the countryside, however it was his publication in connection with Felix Barker which focused on Highgate Cemetery that first, along with many first took note of his work.
Andrew Sargent, who edited the book that accompanied an exhibition of John Gay’s work in 2009 said within it “John was photographing at a time of huge change. He captured a way of life that simply does not exist any more. Landscapes and town centres are different, and so are the British people – the picture of a man in the sea at Blackpool still wearing his outdoor clothes looks peculiar now, but that is what people did in the 1940s.” I have found this quote when coupled with an understanding of his body of work how true it is, he was fortunate, insightful and talented enough to capture a wonderful and varied insight into life and people during the 40’s and on into the future.
When looking at his work I find he has the ability to capture the simplest subject with the most perfect composition and attention to detail, his image of the washing lines, although simple of washing hung to dry his a wonderful exposure capturing depth, lines, texture and curves throughout.
This next image of his encapsulates his ability at different styles of photography, this street photo captures a policeman directing traffic on a London road, but his continued ability to produce a wonderful composition irrespective of time constraints or circumstance. I also love the tonal range and control of shadows in this image, from the shadow over his eyes to the details of his uniform, set the subject apart from the background adding to the depth.
This final image of John Gay’s was taken at Liverpool Street Station in London, and is an excellent example of his abilities and skill, the wonderful composition and scene lend the image to both social/street and architectural photography. The control of light through the sky lights is stunning and atmospheric, but added to the interest of people along the platform the image takes on a magical feel. As is so apparent with his work the composition is inspired while the tonal range adds to the mysticism and atmosphere perfectly.