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Charles Brown - Aviation Photographer

Posted by Tom Sullivan on

As a child I spent many hours leafing through books on aircraft, memorising the names and studying every detail whenever I could, very often under the bed covers with a torch when I should be blowing zeds at the ceiling. Christmas and birthdays inevitably yielded a new volume to add to the library. The abiding memory I have are the images and it is only until recently with my work on PIXAERO that I have discovered many of these pictures that am most familiar with are attributed to Charles Brown.

Charles grew up in South London, taking his first aviation picture in 1911. It was of a balloon landing in Southfields. The image was taken up and published by the Daily Mirror. So Charles embarked on a photographic career at the age of 14. During the First World War Charles worked with the Royal Engineers with some work at the RAF London Photographic Centre. After the first war Charles pursued a freelance career working in travel and railway photography. He started accepting commissions from de Havilland, Supermarine and eventually the Air Ministry. Charles retired in the mid 1960s after amassing an extensive collection of aviation pictures which was bought by the RAF Museum in 1980. These images can be seen at the museum in Hendon, published in the 'Camera Above the Clouds' series of books and on the museum 'online photograph store'.

As I look through the work coming in from contributors to PIXAERO I often wonder what Charles would have thought of the standard of photography being produced today. It is growing into an impressive collection of stunning images created in a variety of styles and techniques that I am sure will stand the test of time. Maybe these images will end up in a book or two to be pored over by a young avid air enthusiast.


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