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Alife in pictures, from Barry Island holiday snaps to Beirut and beyond; WELSHMAN PUTS WORLD IN FOCUS IN PHOTO BOOK.


AS the first picture editor of The Independent and working as a photographer across the world, Alun John's career had many highlights, but his recent book Darkroom to Boardroom reveals it all began with one of Wales' most famous images.

The 63-year-old Cardiff-born press photographer, started off as a pounds 5 a week photo technician in the darkroom of the Western Mail's sister paper, the South Wales Echo, where he developed one of the most iconic Welsh images of the 1960s, the policeman carrying a child from the rubble following the Aberfan disaster.

Alun revealed: "I processed a film for that from a photographer and in the middle of the frame was a policeman carrying a small child.

"I blew that up and it went on to be used on front pages everywhere and won awards." Alun who now lives in Ascot, Berkshire, with his wife Sara explained how his childhood passion for photography turned into an amazing career which has allowed him to travel the world and be part of the transformation of photojournalism from the days when images had to be processed in darkrooms to the digital transmission of pictures.

Alun said: "I had always been interested in photography and my first job taking pictures was at Barry Island, walking up and down the beach trying to get tourists to have a picture with a small child dressed as a bear.

"There was a job going in the darkroom of the South Wales Echo and I joined in 1966. It was good fun, we would have water fights and all sorts.

"I used to have to go down to the old Ninian Park, wait until half-time to get the films from the photographers at both ends, jump into a van waiting outside the ground and rush off to make sure they got into the Football Echo in time.

"When I then worked for the Western Mail in Carmarthen, I used to have to put the films on a train to get to Cardiff by 4.30pm everyday. "The railway staff got to know me, so they would hold the train for me."

For his talent and efforts, Alun has won two awards, The Gerald Barry Award for services to journalism and TheTomHopkinson Award for services to photojournalism.

His departure from Welsh journalism occurred when he was offered a job with the Press Association in London.

Alun added: "I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to hack it.

"I went from taking pictures of sheep to snapping Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but I just got on with it."

He certainly had some run-ins as a staff photographer in London, adding: "People often ask me what was my favourite picture, but I always remember a picture I wish I'd taken. When I was at the Mirror, I was waiting to meet with Ian Maxwell, Robert's son.

"When Robert came out of the lift, arm around the pension fund manager [Maxwell misappropriated pounds 400m from a company pension fund], if I'd have got that, it would have been great."

Darkroom to Boardroom also documents Alun's career postnewspapers, during which he became a managing director in marketing, worked in sales and acquisitions and as an international publishing and communication consultant.

But photography still has a strong hold, taking him to the likes of Rwanda, Afghanistan, China, and Thailand, where he has produced compelling and interesting photography of postwar communities, religion, and culture.

* Alun's story in Kindle format can be bought on


* Alun John in the newsroom of The Independent and, right, the iconic photograph of Aberfan One of Alun John''s dramatic photographs of the aftermath of the civil war in Beirut * Alun's work has taken him around the world, including, from left: the genocide in Rwanda; outside the Old Bailey, working for the Press Association, at the trial of former Labour minister John Stonehouse; the election campaign in Freetown, Sierra Leone; and women in Kabul, Afghanistan
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Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 8, 2012
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