24/06/2006 — 16/09/2006

John Gay

Blackpool 1949

John Gay, Blackpool, 1949

This exhibition highlights the evocative photographs of John Gay who recorded Blackpool holidaymakers during the summer of 1949. 


John Gay was renowned for his work in national advertising campaigns, magazines and books. Gay, who changed his name from Hans Gohler, was a German émigré who came to England in 1933, and later settled in Highgate, London. Born in 1909, at Karlsruhe, Germany, his interest in photography first became apparent after he left school and attended art college in Paris. He worked as a professional photographer in Germany before leaving for a new life in England.

Best known for his architectural photographs, Gay’s photographs were published in six books. His second book 'Prospect of Highgate & Hampstead' (1967) established his career as an architectural photographer. In 1972 he published 'London’s Historic Railway Stations' with Sir John Betjeman, and in 1984 he published his most well known book 'Highgate Cemetery', with Felix Barker; a subject close to his heart, having been actively involved in its rejuvenation, which followed years of neglect after World War Two.

This exhibition demonstrates Gay’s ability to capture ordinary people at ease on holiday. Produced for Country Fair Magazine, Gay’s photographs illustrate Blackpool during a period when the British seaside holiday was immensely popular and provide fascinating documentation of Blackpool’s social history.

The photographs in the exhibition form part of the English Heritage National Monuments Record archive; a public archive containing eight million images, relevant to archaeology, architectural history and the social history of England.


Organised in collaboration with the English Heritage National Monuments Record. (Now on show in our upper gallery space)