John Haynes, theatre photographer for over 40 years and represented exclusively by Lebrecht, enthralled his audience at the annual Lebrecht Garden Party with his experiences in the Royal Court Theatre and other theatre companies. He worked with the cutting edge writers, directors and actors of British theatre in in this era.
His career began working backstage at the Royal Court Theatre and he gradually began to be involved in photography. By slow trial and error he taught himself how to photograph with limited light, using a Leica. After a few years stint at the Sunday Times photographing politicians, feature stories and enjoying the life of a newspaper photographer he returned to the Royal Court as their photographer. At that time huge photographs of the actors would be exhibited alongside the box office and directors of the plays would llook over all the material that he photographed and be involved in the selection process.
The world was a less pressured place and John explained how he would first watch a play being performed, make copious notes and then decide which dramatic high points he would come back to focus on. A great luxury compared with how theatre photographers work today – but the thought that went into these black and white photographs is very evident and that is what makes them such strong and lasting images. The photographs of theatrical icons are powerful and highly sought by picture researchers. John Haynes’ images are well known worldwide, particularly his Samuel Beckett portraits against a black backdrop. Everyone was curious to know what Beckett was like to work with and talk to.
John Haynes is also well known for his series of photos of R D Laing, radical British psychiatrist who wrote ‘The Divided Self’ in 1960. He explained that he knew him very well and lived in his house for a year while Laing was involved with finding out about Bhuddism and based himself in Sri Lanka.
In a digital age picture research often becomes very removed from the acts of creation involved in making photographs and it is a great privilege to have someone who has spent his life involved in this process remind us of how great pictures are made .
Photographs by © Joe Wong