John Timbers (1933 – 2006)

John Timbers - image archive of Theatre, TV and British Personalities

John Timbers started his career after photographic college as assistant to Anthony Armstrong-Jones before setting up on his own.

Early projects included working on the ground-breaking TV drama series Armchair Theatre, sessions with the Bond crew for From Russia With Love, and an assignment to photograph the cast of Beyond the Fringe. In 1960, his first contact with the Royal Court theatre had him photographing the production of The Naming of Murderer's Rock, the directorial debut of John Bird and later that year he was back to photograph Orson Welles directing Laurence Olivier in Ionesco's Rhinoceros, and Rex Harrison for the production of Chekhov's Platonov.

His photographic archive is a wonderful collection of theatre productions personalities, portraiture, film and television from the 1960s through to 2002. His regular clients included the Radio Times, Sunday Times, Harpers and Queen, Regents Park Open Air Theatre, Chichester Theatre and Royal Court.

John approached each subject with the same mixture of concentration and wit. He had the great ability to engage on a personal level and many of the performers and personalities he photographed became great friends. His last London exhibition was held at the Chelsea Arts Club and among the portraits was one taken in Brighton of Sir Ralph Richardson. The great actor had refused to go outside in the wind, not wanting to appear "looking like King Lear", but the session was a success. After Richardson's death, his widow said, "I just know Ralphy would want you to have his camera. I expect you'll find it useful." To John's astonishment, "She produced a Leica M3, circa 1957, in immaculate condition, with two or three additional lenses. I was completely gob-smacked." He found that the camera, the sort favoured by Cartier-Bresson, was one of the quietest ever made. John used it for the rest of his life.

Four of his photographs are exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery.

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