John Downing was Chief Photographer on the Daily Express with a career that spanned over five decades and took him to over 100 countries and all 7 continents. He not only witnessed natural and man-made disasters, but also war zones and famine; he covered royal tours, political events, the famous and the infamous, the needy and the poor.
He has won numerous awards, including the British Press Photographer of the Year an unprecedented seven times, the United Nations Gold Medal in 1990 and the International Photographer of the Year in 1994 (La Nation, Argentina).
In 1992 he was honoured with an MBE for ‘Services to Journalism’; in 2001 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the UK Picture Editors Guild and in 2011 he received an Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society.
John Downing: Legacy is a long overdue celebration of his illustrious career. Press photographers are often overlooked for their contribution to photography but it is their images that define how we see the world's events unfolding on a daily basis. John Downing's work is right there at the pinnacle of photojournalism.
This is an important book demonstrating that despite the pressures John worked under, he produced quality photographs time after time. Every day press photographers are given an assignment with the challenge of capturing images that will immediately reflect what is happening - be it a war zone, disaster or a striking portrait of a personality. Success is often measured by claiming the front page - something John managed on many occasions.
John Downing: Legacy covers some of his key assignments, including most major wars and international events. He travelled to East Pakistan/Bangladesh, Rhodesia, Beirut, Iraq, Somalia, Rwanda, Croatia, and over a dozen visits to Bosnia.
He was beaten and imprisoned in Uganda by the regime of Idi Amin. The Daily Express described its front-page headline as, 'World exclusive pictures taken inside the black hole of Kampala'.
Together with writer Kim Willsher, John was one of the first journalists to visit Chernobyl after the nuclear explosion.
He lived rough for many weeks with guerrilla fighters in several wars; the Anyanya in Southern Sudan, the Contras in Nicaragua, and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
And - as the video cryptically refers - he was the only photographer inside the Grand Hotel, Brighton, when the IRA bomb exploded in a failed attempt to kill PM Margaret Thatcher and her government. This led to further world exclusive photographs.
Amongst all these key images were thousands of others; royalty, street scenes, celebrations, landscapes - occasionally with a humorous take. All in a day's work for one of our finest photographers. This book is his legacy.
John Downing: Legacy will be a hardback book with dust jacket, size 270 x 290mm (landscape) and 192 pages.
Risks and challenges
John Downing: Legacy is being published in collaboration with Bluecoat Press, who have published over 200 books and run many successful Kickstarters. We do not envisage any risks.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)