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Picture editor looks back over changing times

A successful press photographer who processed one of the most famous pictures of the Aberfan disaster has written a book about his time in the industry.

Darkroom to Boardroom by Alun John gives an insight into how a hobby turned into a career which has seen him win awards for his work and take on major roles at national newspapers.

In the book, Alun who was 18 when he started on the South Wales Echo on £5 a week, tells how the photographic department at the Echo gave him the finest training that a young photo technician could aspire to.

And it is a picture from his time at the Echo that sticks in his mind the most from his lengthy career.

He had joined the newspaper in 1966 the same year of the Aberfan disaster in which mining debris from a spoil tip collapsed into a Welsh village killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Said Alun: “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.

“The photographer hadn’t even realised he had got that in the picture.”

After the Echo, Alun, who became interested in photography after his dad built a darkroom under the stairs, went on to become a photographer at a local newspaper in Hemel Hempstead. He then returned to the Echo for a period before becoming a staff photographer with the Press Association.

Following that he worked briefly at Associated Press as picture desk editor and then became deputy picture editor at the Evening Standard.

He then went to the Mail on Sunday and in the late 1980s became the first picture editor at the Independent, a role that he held for three years.

He now works as a consultant picture editor, a role that has taken him to 14 countries including Afghanistan and Beirut.

Added Alun:  “I wrote the book because I teach a lot of young journalists and if only they realised how lucky they are now with the introduction of digital photography. It’s the most exciting invention.

“Thirty years ago we would have had to send a picture by train.”

Darkroom to Boardroom is available on Amazon Kindle.