“The flood of books and exhibitions and essays threatens to obscure what needs to be emphasised: the primacy in photojournalism of content, especially news content, in short, the need to satisfy the public’s appetite for news.” Harold Evans, Pictures on a Page (William Heinemann, 1978)
“You know what?” said Sir Harold Evans pointing to Ian Bradshaw’s 1974 picture of a streaker at Twickenham in his book Pictures on a Page, “The person hurrying up to conceal the genitals of this Jesus Christ figure, his name is Grundy. The Grundys are the leading censors against any kind of obscenity.”
“Let me just have a look where the Grundys came from…”, continued Evans as he reached into his jacket pocket for his mobile phone. “Grundy, Grundy, Mrs Grundy… I’m going to educate myself here.”
“Ah! Here it is”, the former editor of the Times and Sunday Times said, beginning to quote from Wikipedia, “Mrs Grundy is a figurative name for an extremely conventional or priggish person, a personification of the tyranny of conventional propriety. A tendency to be overly fearful of what the respectable might think is also referred to as grundyism.”
“So there we are. There’s Mr Grundy,” said Sir Harold with satisfaction. “Can you think of any piece of serendipity better than that?”
Evans was at a champagne reception at the Media Space in London before attending a dinner at which he was presented with the 2015 Kraszna-Krausz Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Award. He’d been looking at a display of his published books, six of which concerned photography. 
A train-driver’s son with a Master of Arts Degree from Durham University, Evans learnt layout, picture sizing and captioning at the Evening News in Manchester, which in the mid-1950s boasted two dozen newspapers. He made his name as a campaigning editor at the Northern Echo in Darlington before joining the Oxbridge-dominated Sunday Times in 1967.
As his star rose, Evans took time off to teach newspaper editing and design for the Asia programme of the International Press Institute (IPI), an organisation formed in the wake of the Second World War to promote international press freedom and the improvement of the practices of journalism. He undertook “periodic ventures” into newsrooms in Malaysia, Korea, Japan and the Philippines and ran workshops, notably in India following an appeal by Nehru to the IPI’s founding director, Jim Rose, for help to drag the Indian press out of the Victorian age. 
At the top left of the display of his books at the Media Space was a copy of Evans’s first book, a training manual for news editors in the developing world titled The Active Newsroom. Published by the IPI in 1961 the handbook was the forerunner of a comprehensive five-volume manual on English, typography and layout commissioned by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) in 1971 when Evans was editing the Sunday Times. 
Book four in the series was Pictures on a Page, Photojournalism, Graphics and Picture Editing. Despite the digital revolution that has transformed the newspaper industry since it was first published in 1978, Pictures on a Page remains the definitive study on the creation and presentation of news and newspaper photographs and the ethics of their use. Did Evans think anyone would write the equivalent today? “I don’t know,” he said. “Well, I hope they don’t!”
“THAT INVITATION TO A BAYONETTING”
Evans flicks the pages and stops at a picture of the bayonetting of suspected collaborators on a polo field in Bangladesh, a notorious incident in the history of photojournalism which he describes in the book as “that invitation to a bayonetting”.
Photographers Horst Faas and Michael Laurent of Associated Press (AP) shared the credit for the photograph which won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography. Evans said the bayonetting took place because the cameras were there and that some of the photographers walked. All of the invited photographers should have walked, he said.
In Pictures on a Page he went further: “If to take and publish those pictures was correct. It was surely demeaning to photojournalism for the Pulitzer Committee to award the picture a prize.”
Harold Evans famously stood up to a group of Conservative MPs who told him his reporting in the Sunday Times of growing anger among Catholics in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s was treasonable and ignored threats from the Attorney General that his stories about thalidomide could land him in prison for contempt of court. In 1975 he risked prosecution under the Official Secrets Act for serialising the diaries of Labour Minister Richard Crossman. Unsuprisingly, Evans remains forthright in his opinions throughout Pictures on a Page.
The only issue about the printed photograph the newspaperman appears to sidestep is the “marmalade” of photography being an art form or not. He nevertheless ends the introduction quoting the American photographer Berenice Abbot, who said, “I have yet to see a fine photograph which is not a good document.” 
Evans uses ordinary images and extraordinary ones to illustrate his arguments. A good news picture is not necessarily a great photograph. “But published, even on an inside page, it may attract 80% of the paper’s readership, a phenomenal figure,” writes Evans in the chapter titled The Unbeatable News Photograph. “Let us delve into the reasons for it.”
It is in the photographer’s attitude to composition that differentiates them from the mere button pusher, says Evans. “In writing the injunction is to have something to say and to say it well, and in photography similarly the idea needs to be served by technique.”
He warns photographers against “the proliferation of cliché”, bemoans the “disturbing passion for creativity” and insists that “photojournalism is not well served when the photographer becomes more important than the subject”.
Evans also gives short shrift to Susan Sontag, the cultural analyst and author of On Photography for her assertion that photojournalism deludes the mind and deadens the emotions by posing as an accurate ‘miniature’ of reality when it is only a symbol.
Written journalism can also delude and numb, writes Evans. What photojournalism requires is the investment of more intelligence, knowledge, sensitivity and scepticism.
The investment photojournalism needs begins with editors and writers. They must show a better appreciation of both the possibilities of photography and the difficulties of the working photographer, says Evans. “The writer has a second chance, the photographer rarely.”
And any picture editor, worth his or her salt, must have a talent for ‘seeing’ possible photographs in text and conveying their vision succinctly to the photographer. Distilling a story to its visual essentials is an under-rated skill, he says.
THE DECISIVE MOMENT REDEFINED
In chapters six and seven Evans examines the decisive moment, a new idea about picture taking which the French master Henri Cartier Bresson discussed in his first book, the New York edition of which was also titled The Decisive Moment.
Writing in 1952, the Frenchman described “the organic co-ordination of elements seen by the eye, a recognition of a rhythm in the world of real things”. He only pressed his shutter when shapes, lines and values had come together, not in a dramatic climax that makes a good news photograph, but in a visual climax.
By the time Harold Evans was writing Pictures on a Page the term had become “a commonplace of photojournalism and corrupted”. So he proposed the alternative terms News Moment and Visual or Symbolic Moment to clarify and refine the concept.
Evans believes the original term should be reserved to describe those few photographs which unmistakably fuse news content and composition as Don McCullin did with his tragically beautiful award-winning image of a Turkish woman mourning her dead husband in Cyprus in 1964.
The moment is created by the woman’s son reaching up “as much as, it seems, to comfort her as to seek solace himself,” says Evans. The woman’s hands and the woman supporting her and the crying woman to the right of the frame also make this “a truly decisive moment”. The picture is news, its composition is extraordinary and it is symbolic as it sums up the pain caused by the Greek-Turkish conflict then engulfing the island.
McCullin’s picture won the most prestigious award in photojournalism, the World Press Photo of the year in 1964 and yet, as Evans points out, it was “negligently squeezed into a tiny space when first published”.
We also learn from Pictures on a Page that Don McCullin took a meter reading, as he always does, before photographing the mourning woman. And that Eugene Smith used “just a kiss” of bounce flash for his famous picture taken in Minamata, Japan of a mother bathing her daughter born disabled as a result of mercury poisoning. “I made five or six pictures and then the one I wanted came up,” Smith told Evans. “I knew it the moment I took it. It was a picture of love. Then I got sloppy and didn’t focus properly. My eyes had filled with tears.”
Unfortunately, Evans’s alternative terms have little traction today. Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Story Telling Moment, which the newspaperman mentions in his chapter on assignments, might prove easier to keep in mind.
LUCK AND THE COMPLEMENTARY NATURE OF WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
“One of the cardinal creative forces is luck,” writes Harold Evans in Chapter Seven: The Minutiae of Time and Space. “The photographer has unique equipment for collaborating with it.”
What was then “the most reproduced photograph of all time” was luck. Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press was covering the US advance in the Pacific towards the end of the Second World War. On the island of Iwo Jima, the five foot five inch Rosenthal positioned himself on some Japanese sandbags to get a picture of the American flag being raised by six Marines. He was looking the other way when they began but swung round, as Eddie Adams did for his Saigon execution in 1968, and caught history in action.
Rosenthal was lucky the sun through the cloud gave the figures a sculptural depth and lucky the 20-foot flagpole was a heavy metal pipe (wreckage from a Japanese radar station) “which meant the men had to strain to get it up”. There is also drama in the unresolved action of the unfurling flag and in the powerful diagonal of the flagpole itself. All these details helped etch the image on America’s memory, writes Evans.
Twice in the book Harold Evans cites Cartier Bresson’s approach to photography as the polar opposite to photojournalism.
Cropping, which the Frenchman prohibited from his work, can add emphasis and remove unnecessary or distracting details, says Evans. It “can often improve and occasionally transform”.
And captions. Cartier Bresson said that if a photograph is really evocative it carries its own message. The only information required is the when and the where.
“That,” Evans counters, is “a piece of intellectual debris from the early idea that photography was an art or it was nothing”.
Words and photography are not competitive, they are complementary, says the newspaperman. “They explain relationships. They fix the time. They may elaborate on what is happening. They can point to an elusive detail. They can attempt to counter our irritating perversity in each drawing different, even contradictory, meanings from the same image. They can confirm mood. And with a single photograph only words can explain how the event occurred or what its effect might be.” He also points out that “photography is limited in its power of analysis”.
Cartier Bresson, of course, was not looking to analyse but for that recognition of a rhythm of real things. The French language edition of The Decisive Moment was called Images á la Sauvette, or Images on the Run, a more elusive title and a better description of the nimble-footed Frenchman’s approach. He considered himself a surrealist until Robert Capa suggested he call himself a photojournalist. Cartier Bresson worked in his own time and space and not to constant deadlines.
ESSAY OR STORY?
Further to his call for clear terminology in Pictures on a Page, Harold Evans complains that ‘essay’ and ‘story’, are used interchangeably by newspapers and magazines. A picture story is essentially narrative, the record of a single event. Whereas the essay, unconfined by either time or event, “Will argue and analyse rather than narrate; it will make points,” writes Evans.
The master essayist with a camera was Eugene Smith. His essay Minamata, which included the picture of the mother lovingly bathing her daughter, drew international attention to the effects of chemical dumping. The essay came out of a short visit to the Japanese village with his wife which evolved into a stay of three years. When Harold Evans contacted him to talk about his work, Smith was recovering from injuries inflicted by thugs hired by the Chisso Corporation, whose chemical factory had been releasing the industrial waste for decades.
Before Brian Brake shot his moody and beautiful essay on the Indian monsoon he undertook two years of reading “on and off” and showed his work to the people of Calcutta, says Evans. He built up trust and realised along the way, “that there had to be a flow not merely in the chronological content but also in a cycle of colour”.
In 1998 it was revealed that Brake’s most famous shot, the Monsoon girl, was a set up. “Feel the rain on your face,” he told the fourteen-year old actress, Apana Sen, on the set of a Satyajit Ray film, as someone emptied a watering can over her.
Brake was using 25 ASA Kodachrome which made it hard to catch much on the run and the image works as well today as it did for Life magazine in 1961, but as Evans ponders the remark Bert Hardy made when he interviewed him for the book – that he staged ‘scores’ of news photographs – the reader may agree that Hardy’s admission “nibbles at the credibility of photojournalism”. 
Evans says, “Where credibility is an issue there should never be tampering and as little cropping as possible”. The decision lies with the newspaper. In the section about the picture story Evans says that ultimately “picture selection has to be ruthless”. And not by the photographer who should “relish” the “sharpening of focus that an art director can provide”.
PRESENTING A PHOTOGRAPH
Michael Rand was art director at the Sunday Times Magazine for thirty years. In Pictures on a Page he tells Evans that his role was to stand in for the reader. He wanted nothing explained to him by the photographer, the pictures had to speak for themselves. Evans adds that an art director has to consider how a story fits into a whole issue. “Contrasts of content, scale, colour, texture and timing are required,” he says.
Often in the book, Evans refers to magazine design. Photojournalism is assisted by the bold simplicities and sense of value of space exhibited by magazines such as Stern, Paris Match and “at their best,” the British Sunday colour supplements, he writes. But the broadsheet newspaper has the virtue of scale. Assessing a sequence of spreads of the Paris riots published by the Sunday Times on 26 May 1968 (which appear remarkably effective by today’s watered-down standards) he suggests three experimental alternatives beneath the headline, THE FRENCH REVOLT.
His picture selection shows one side of the conflict answered by images of the other side. So we see a challenge to the government of the French President Charles De Gaul in the form of a stone-throwing rioter contrasted with a picture of a march down the Champs-Elysées by Gaulist supporters.
Evans says that the best way to present a single photograph is to “headline it with a few fitting words so that the words and pictures have a unity of effect”. All well and good, but his research soon revealed that headline and picture were rarely printed close enough together and the words often “failed to match the meaning or mood of the picture”. We have to bridge the gap of understanding with a good headline before we can expect the reader to be drawn to the caption, writes Evans.
WAR’S GREATEST PICTURE: St. Paul’s Stands Unharmed in the Midst of the Burning City, was the emotive headline above Herbert Mason’s famous image published on the front page of the Daily Mail on 31 December 1940. “But the effect and the conviction about the worth of the picture were marred by biting a corner off the picture for a display ad,” writes Evans. 
Likewise the Express got it wrong with the right idea with a headline and full page picture of Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother and Queen Mary at the funeral of King George VI in February 1952. THE THREE QUEENS PRAY, was the headline although the picture does not show them praying but standing together in the street. Evans suggests, THREE QUEENS MOURN as a better headline, pointing out that, “Perfect picture headlines satisfy without suspicion every expectation they arouse”.
Picture sequences also need words to carry them forward. DEATH IN DERRY headlined Gilles Peres’ images of the killing of Patrick Doherty as British troops opened fire on a riot in 1972. Accompanying the pictures was a map of the location that identified the photographer’s position and a mug shot of Perres, then aged 25. The strapline at the top exclaims “Sunday Times Exclusive… This was Bloody Sunday as the Bullets Flew… and a Man Crawled to the End of His Life”.
THE THIRD EFFECT
Wilson Hickes, picture editor on Life magazine from 1937, came up with the term ‘The Third Effect’ which is what happens in the viewer’s mind when two pictures are placed together.
Its use was pioneered by Stefan Lorant, in his magazine Lilliput and in Picture Post in the late 1930s and 1940.
Lorant, “one of the fathers of photojournalism” says Evans, claimed to have between ten and twenty-thousand pictures in his head giving him “a range of opportunity as rich as the imagination of the creator and the associative ideas of the viewer”.
As an example of the third effect Evans uses a large picture of Hitler dominating a smaller one of a group of Jews on their way to the concentration camps and almost certain death. It is nothing particularly clever writes Evans but “is forceful because it is simple.”
“A painter,” Evans states, “can produce a synthesis of his subject but a photographer in their search for character has to capture a sense of completeness in a fraction of a second.”
On a shoot for Vogue in 1951, Ernst Haas encouraged Albert Einstein to stop posing and to think by asking if he had a particular book on his shelves. Einstein put his hand to his mouth and said, “Let me think, where did I put that book?” and Haas had his shot of the great thinker thinking.
Arnold Newman used the form of the piano as a prop in his famous photograph of the composer Igor Stravinsky taken in 1945. Newman said that he did not make portraits, he built them. There are other ways. In a section in Pictures on a Page called Atmosphere Before Vivacity, Evans cites the “quiet but memorable” portraiture of Bill Brandt.
Brandt eschewed talking to his subject in favour of looking for a background that would make the photograph revealing. For his portrait of the painter Francis Bacon on Primrose Hill in 1963, he waited until twilight when the gas light would be lit, adding mystery. Luck again can come into play: “The vital elements are often momentary, chance sent things,” said Brandt.
And writing about what he calls private images, Evans uses an AP-credited photograph of President Kennedy taken by fashion photographer and Life magazine freelance Mark Shaw. Kennedy’s favourite photograph of himself, it shows him walking alone on the dunes at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
“When Kennedy died most of the single pictures of the President in action, or portraits, seemed to give disproportionate stress to one aspect of the man or his career. But the youthful figure walking away from us through the sand dunes enables everyone to turn in on his own thoughts,” writes Evans. “And sometimes that is the best service photography can render.”
ETHICS AND PHOTOJOURNALISM
The four areas of sensitivity that Harold Evans points to in his book are violence; intrusions into privacy; sex and public decency and faking. He predicts that “privacy will increasingly bother photographers and editors”.
The Press Council will not tolerate faking, he writes. The council has censured photography of relatives in distress, people in prison and the surveillance of public figures in private places.
“The lines are harder to draw on violence. Violent photographs do cause distress to many people and that has sometimes to be accepted; but to inflict distress at random is to weaken the cause for doing it at all. Circumstances must determine cases, and certainty is elusive.”
But should you print it? he asks. “It is the response to a single photograph which still most perplexes me.”
“With offensive photographs, two questions help: is the event it portrays of such social or historic significance that the shock is justified? Is the objectionable detail necessary for a proper understanding of the event?”
He criticises the suppression of photographs of lynchings by the US media throughout much of the twentieth century and says it was necessary to show the charred bodies of the Jews murdered by the Nazis. And it was supremely right, writes Evans, to publish Ronald Haeberle’s pictures of the My Lai massacre taken in Vietnam in March 1968.
Harold Evans also discusses graphics, “which can let us see the unseeable” and illustration. He calls drawing “the greatest untapped source of enlightenment, fun and inspiration in modern printed journalism”.
Among long-lost illustrated publications he lists Le Figaro Illustré, which at the turn of the twentieth century was France’s largest daily newspaper. Its name and motto came from the Beaumarchais comedy, The Marriage of Figaro, in which a character declares, “Without the freedom to criticise, there is no true praise”.
Continuing its remit to educate and inform to the end, Pictures on a Page concludes with credits, a list of press photo awards, a bibliography and two pages of picture sources, many of which faltered with the coming of digital technology and big money. The Keystone Press Agency, the Mansell Collection and Colorific are all gone.
Then there are those just lost like the Novosti picture agency, a source of Soviet and Russian pictures at 3 Rosary Gardens, London SW7, until the agency was dissolved by presidential decree in 2013. 
Also listed is the newspaper library at Colindale which closed the same year. The print newspapers were sent north to the vast £23 million National Newspaper Building at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire. The building opened in January and houses twenty five miles of newspapers in a low-oxygen environment to eliminate the risk of fire.
The newspaper microfilm collection is now available via the British Library Newsroom at St. Pancras in London and the John Frost Newspaper Library, listed in Pictures on a Page in 1978 in New Barnet, has moved to New Romney, Kent.
“THE ACRID TASTE OF DANGER”
In 2001 Harold Evans was voted the all-time greatest British newspaper editor by British journalists. His Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Award, which he received in May this year, was just the latest in a succession of major awards that stretched back to 1967, when aged 39, he won the Campaigning Journalist of the Year award for his work on the Northern Echo.
He loved editing photographs at the Echo, although that was nothing to the “acrid taste of danger that came with the prints the Sunday Times men brought back from conflict and disaster,” wrote Evans in his autobiography My Paper Chase.
A team player whose door when editor stayed open to colleagues, Evans understood the power of photography and used it to effect, then told us how to do the same. Six of the fifteen books that he has written are about photography.
At a Media Society dinner in his honour in 2013, Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, said that no journalist of his generation could escape the influence of Evans. “We were all brought up on his text books. Everything we knew about constructing an intro, subbing, cropping a picture, designing a page or writing a headline we knew it because of Harry.”
“Great journalists write about big things – the things that really matter,” said Rusbridger. “He is the sort of journalist that in our hearts we would all like to be.” That Evans has devoted so much energy thinking and writing about photography is something that the powerful in our industry might take note of.
Then one final observation from the newspaperman: The professional guy no longer has power and authority, Evans said as glasses clinked nearby. Even in the day when everybody’s a photographer, we hesitate to step between the subject and the camera because we don’t want to break that image.
“So it shows that the authority of the photograph, and the desire not to interfere with history, is still respected.”
“OK. Better move on and get a drink,” said Sir Harold heading back to the champagne reception at which he was a guest of honour. “It was nice to meet you.”
• Harold Evans was presented with the Kraszna-Krausz Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Award by photography collector and James Bond film producer Michael G Wilson on 18 May 2015.
The Previous recipients of the award are Philippa Brewster of I.B. Tauris (2014), Thomas Neurath of Thames and Hudson (2013), Dewi Lewis (2012) and Gerhard Steidl (2011).
The 2015 Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards and the First Book Award exhibition was at the Virgin Media Studio, Media Space at the Science Museum, London from 20 April to 28 June 2015. The museum is open seven days a week, from 10.00am to 6:00pm.
• Buy now? You can spend what you like on a copy of Pictures on a Page, albeit for different editions new and used. Prices on Amazon on 24 October 2015 ranged from £1.73 to £5,710.07 plus delivery.
• “Each photograph is only a small, flat series of tones from black to white. Its depth is an illusion, its animation symbolic. Yet it has this mysterious richness transcending all its limitations so that our impressions of major and complex events may be permanently fashioned by a single news photograph.” Read more Harold Evans quotes on Photoquotes.
• Visually illiterate editors: “[Harry’s] greatest qualities are a heartfelt appreciation of writing, and an exceptional eye for design and photography. More editors than you might imagine, even very good ones, are visually illiterate,” a former colleague told Robert Chalmers of The Independent, 13 June 2010.
 Hungarian photographer Andor Kraszna-Krausz (1904-89) emigrated to England in 1937 where he founded Focal Press and set up the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation and its annual awards.
His personal archive and library is available for study at the National Photography Collection at the National Media Museum, Bradford.
 Tom Hopkinson did much the same for the IPI in Africa. In 1961 the former editor of Picture Post and Drum magazine founded the IPI training centre in Nairobi, Kenya. An advocate of photojournalism and photographers, he travelled throughout Africa teaching journalism for five years before returning to the UK to oversee press studies at the University of Sussex and journalism studies at University College, Cardiff.
 It is odd, therefor, that the NCTJ omits the entire 1970s from its history.
The other titles in the five-volume manual are Newsman’s English (1972), Handling Newspaper Text (1974), News Headlines (1974) and Newspaper Design (1973) which were published by William Heinemann in the UK and Holt, Rinehart & Winston in the USA. In 2000 Newsman’s English and News Headlines were updated and amalgamated by Crawford Gillan into Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers, a Pimlico paperback.
 According to Photoquotes, the Berenice Abbott quote comes from the Universal Photo Almanac of 1951 and is cited in Creative Camera, November 1974 (page 365). Abbot, who for forty years promoted the work of Eugène Atget, also said, “Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself”. More from Abbot on Photoquotes here.
 The debate continues.
 Herbert Mason said, “I focused at intervals as the great dome loomed up through the smoke. The glare of many fires and sweeping clouds of smoke kept hiding the shape. Then a wind sprang up. Suddenly, the shining cross, dome and towers stood out like a symbol in the inferno. The scene was unbelievable. In that moment or two, I released my shutter.”
He took the photograph from the roof of the Daily Mail on Carmelite Street, London on the night of 29 December 1940. Censors held up publication for two days while they considered its propaganda effect. The
 RIA Novosti was the successor of Sovinformburo which was established two days after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. In 2013, in what CNN described as a “tightening of state control”, a decree by President Vladimir Putin combined the agency with the Voice of Russia radio to create a new state-owned agency called Rossiya Segodnya or Russia Today.