Johnny Jay

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Interview Date(s): 
9 Aug 1990
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Interview notes


Born in Streatham, London 1920. Local schooling, keen to get into films. Went for an interview at [Gaumont British?] at the Bush [Shepherds Bush], seen by Otto Dyer, the American Head of the Stills Dept., who advised him to get an apprenticeship in photography, and then perhaps he might get into the Bush’s own trainee scheme. Got a job with a local photographer and after three months received a call from Gainsborough studios at Islington and was taken on in the Stills Dept., where he slowly learned about Stills photography. He gives a lot of technical detail about types of cameras and processing. As the war approached the Islington Studios closed and he was transferred to the Bush, eventually called up into the Royal Air Force, and after basic training was posted to Pinewood where he took over the RAF Stills Dept. He was invalided out of the RAF in 1944 and returned to Gainsborough where his first assignment was to be Stills man on The Wicked Lady. He gives details of some of his varied assignments, and then his freelance work.

This interview does describe some of the conditions under which Stills photographers had to get their pictures.



Johnny Jay was born in 1920 in Brixton in  London. His career began at the age of fifteen when he left school to become a photographer’s apprentice. He took the stills on Hammer Films Quatermass Xperiment, Quatermass II and The Curse of Frankenstein. He went on to become  one of Britain’s top motion picture photographers and  traveled the world  working  on the sets of such films as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 2001: A Space Odyssey and the first   Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope among many others.