The First Times Photo
Forty five years ago, Deano Risley, who died earlier this year, played a role in a small and peculiar milestone; his photograph of the then Chancellor of Exchequer Jim Callaghan made photographic history as it became the first photograph to appear on the front page of The Times (of London) on May 3, 1966. On that day, as part of the modernisation spearheaded by its Editor, Sir William Haley, before the paper’s acquisition by Lord Thomson of Fleet, news replaced the traditional classified advertising on the front page of The Times.
Until a century ago, the front page of many newspapers contained no news at all; they were pretty much dominated by advertisements that reflected social class and political leanings of their readers. However, by with the advent of photography, sensationalist headlines and desire to differentiate themselves from other papers, led many to veer away from this historical pattern by the mid-20th century. By the late 20th century, the trend has completely been reversed: to have ads on the frontpages was considered to be distasteful, and to violate the purity of page one and the sacred wall between news and business. In recent years, as news business struggles to survive, we may have come full circle as many major newspapers began reintroducing ads to their frontpages.
Deano Risley too belonged to a different age, the time where many newspaper photographers remained relatively unknown. His obscurity was such that only The Times covered his death and there are only a handful of Google search results mentioning him (and all linked back to that Times obituary). However, The Times obituary suggests that he was a stellar photojournalist — he recorded trials and tribulations of Britain during those giddy and uncertain years of the 50s and the 60s: the wreckage of the Liverpool-Euston express; the raising off the submarine HMS Truculent, which sank in the Thames Estuary after colliding with a Swedish tanker with heavy loss of life in January 1950; the Suez crisis in 1956; the muddy tunnels and caverns under the Mendips. His photo of St Paul’s Cathedral, which appeared in The Times of January 1, 1960, was one of the first to be published using the Vario-Klischograph electromechanical engraving technique.