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By Colin Harding on

J is for… James Jarché: A pioneer of press photography

Colin Harding takes a look at the life of one of the legendary figures of Fleet Street, who always came back with the picture his editor wanted.

For the next instalment of my alphabetical journey through our collection, you get two ‘j’s for the price of one as I consider the work of one of the legendary figures of Fleet Street—James Jarché.

Portrait of James Jarché, 1957, James Jarché, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL
Portrait of James Jarché, 1957 © The Royal Photographic Society Collection

James (Jimmy) Jarché was a pioneer of modern press photography. He photographed hundreds of historic events and his sitters included, among many others, such diverse subjects as Winston Churchill, Dr Crippen and Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein, 1944, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Albert Einstein, 4 February 1944, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection

His first photographs were published before the First World War, yet he was still hard at work in the late 1950s when a new breed of ‘Young Meteors’ such as David Bailey and Don McCullin were changing the nature of photojournalism.

In his day Jarché was one of the best-known figures on Fleet Street and something of a celebrity in his own right, even publishing an autobiography, People I Have Shot, in 1934.

Gracie Fields and James Jarché photographing each other, 1934, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Gracie Fields and James Jarché photographing each other, 3 November 1934, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection

Today, however, while some of his photographs are very familiar—for example, a policeman chasing some naked urchins who had gone for a dip in the Serpentine—Jarché himself has been largely forgotten.

'Limbs and the Law', 1924, James Jarché, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL
‘Limbs and the Law’, 1924, James Jarché © The Royal Photographic Society Collection

James Jarché was born to French immigrant parents in Rotherhithe, east London, in 1891. His father was a professional photographer and by the time he was seven, Jarché was already assisting him in the darkroom.

The enormous growth in the photographically illustrated press during the Edwardian era drew him towards journalism, and his first photograph was published in the Daily Mirror in 1909.

In 1912 Jarché joined the Daily Sketch. In 1929 he moved to Odhams Press where he stayed for over twenty years, working for the Daily Herald newspaper and Weekly Illustrated magazine. The photo library of the Daily Herald, now preserved in our archives, contains hundreds of his glass negatives.

Jarché’s entries in the photo department day-books—a diary which recorded every story covered by each staff photographer—paint a vivid picture of mid-20th century British history.

Night Scene in Govan, 3 November 1931, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Night Scene in Govan, 3 November 1931, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection

At the start of his career Jarché used a collapsing 9×12 plate camera, the standard workhorse of the press photographer. By the early 1930s, however, he had begun to use a Leica 35mm camera, realising that, despite the derision of his more traditional colleagues, this represented the future of photojournalism.

James Jarché with his Leica, 8 February 1938, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
James Jarché with his Leica, 8 February 1938, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection

In 1934 he wrote:

I am experimenting now with a miniature camera which I think will eventually be used by Fleet Street cameramen. It takes 36 pictures on a strip…

Bieriot after crossing the Channel, 1910, James Jarché, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL
Bieriot after crossing the Channel, 1910, James Jarché © The Royal Photographic Society Collection

Jarché ended his career working for the Daily Mail, eventually retiring in 1959 after fifty years as a press photographer. He died in 1965, aged 74. A consummate professional, Jarché was the photographer who always came back with the picture the editor wanted.

Here are just a few of those photographs from our collection, but you can browse hundreds more on the Science and Society Picture Library website.

Winston Churchill at the Sidney Street Siege, 1911, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Winston Churchill at the Sidney Street Siege, 1911, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
Men exercising on a beach, 1933, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Men exercising on a beach, 4 September 1933, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
Asleep on the deck of the SS Normandie, May 1935, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Asleep on the deck of the SS Normandie, May 1935, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
Binnie Hale and Roger Treville watch their co-stars in 'Magyar Melody', 1939, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Binnie Hale and Roger Treville watch their co-stars in ‘Magyar Melody’, 27 March 1939, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
Workers pictured streaming out of the Queen Mary liner, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Workers pictured streaming out of the Queen Mary liner, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
Filming the 1934-35 cup final, 1935, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Filming the 1934-35 cup final, 1935, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
Little boy carrying a lamb, 19 February 1932, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Little boy carrying a lamb, 19 February 1932, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
Cinema audience pictured using the Ilford infra-red process, 6 February 1932, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Cinema audience pictured using the Ilford infra-red process, 6 February 1932, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
'£1,000,000 furnace for car making', 25 June 1934, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
‘£1,000,000 furnace for car making’, 25 June 1934, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
Woman Feeds Deer from a motorbike sidecar at Richmond Park, 5 March 1933, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Woman feeds deer from a motorbike sidecar at Richmond Park, 5 March 1933, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
National Hunger March, 23 February 1934, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
National Hunger March, 23 February 1934, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection
George Bernard Shaw, c. 1930, James Jarché, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL
George Bernard Shaw, c. 1930, James Jarché  The Royal Photographic Society Collection
The Royal Naval School of Photography, 1938, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
The Royal Naval School of Photography, 1938, James Jarché, Daily Herald Archive, Science Museum Group collection

Further reading and interesting links

  • Ainslie Ellis, ‘Jarché: A Portrait of a “Big” Man’, Good Photography, April 1959, pp.198-203
  • Derek Smith, James Jarché 1891–1965: Press Picture Pioneer, Popperfoto, 1980
  • Jarché (1918–1965), Creative Camera, July/August 1985, p.42
  • Jarché’s obituary, The Photographic Journal, December 1965, p.344
  • S.D.Jouhar, ‘Photographic Personalities: James Jarché’, The Amateur Photographer, 17 December, 1952, p.635
  • James Jarché, People I Have Shot: Reminiscences of a Press Photographer, London: Methuen, 1934
  • A TV documentary about Jarché presented by his grandson, David Suchet

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