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Stalwart former press photographer dies aged 92

A former press photographer who spent more than 70 years in the profession has died at the age of 92.

Willoughby Gullachsen, known as ‘Gus’, worked as a professional photographer from 1936 and spent time working on the Midland Chronicle and Free Press Weekly during his distinguished career.

Spending the majority of his working life in the Midlands, he took pictures of some of the biggest stars of the day and captured 189 productions for the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Born in Northumberland in 1921, it was the RAF which initially launched him on his career path – he was eventually assigned as a photographer after protesting to his senior officer that his hands were too big to be deployed as an instrument maker.

Willoughby Gullachsen spent more than 70 years as a photographer

Gus underwent an intensive training period at the School of RAF Photography in Farnborough and was posted to Bomber Command, Scampton. His postings during the conflict included South Africa, India and Iraq.

In his book, Shooting Through Life, he wrote that he felt privileged to have worked with such a variety of people over the years.

“Looking back over my lifetime working as a photographer, many memories of the people and places I have been lucky enough to have encountered come to mind,” wrote Gus in an article published by the Birmingham Post.

“From my early portraits of Tembu tribesmen in South Africa while serving with the RAF during the Second World War through many years of working with famous television personalities in Birmingham as well as actors and actresses from the many stage and BBC drama productions I worked with over the years.”

In 1949, he opened his own studio in West Bromwich, working for the Midland Chronicle and Free Press Weekly locally and worked regularly as a freelance for the TV Times, ABC Television and ATV.

From 1964, Gus worked for the BBC, providing, amongst others, the photography for Four Borchester Echos and worked as unit photographer on Chris Tarrant’s Tiswas.

From 1968 until 1984, he was engaged as the Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s official photographer, for all 189 productions during this period.

As well as extensively working for the Birmingham Rep, he photographed many Royal Shakespeare Company productions and was the unit photographer for BBC Drama for 22 years until 1994.

His work has been exhibited throughout the Midlands since 1959, including commissions for Birmingham Libraries: The Brummies (1994), Hidden Birmingham (1996), and Senior Citizens (2000).

He also had many exhibitions of his work staged in Birmingham and Stratford, the most recent being his Images Of The Sixties at the Waterhall Gallery of Modern Art in Birmingham in 2005.

Many of his photographs are now held in the Library of Birmingham.

He leaves a son, Lorentz, and daughter, Jan.

Shooting Through Life by Willoughby ‘Gus’ Gullachsen contains over 60 photographs and is available at


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  • March 12, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Photographed Gus for a newspaper when I was just starting out. He was a real gent and didn’t make me feel at all intimidated. A great photographer who will be missed by all who knew him

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  • March 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I first met Gus as a young reporter on the Chronicle, riding as a sidecar passenger to jobs he was photographing. Hair raising but great fun .Then, when as a photographer I often went out with Gus to his jobs on my days off, learning all the time.
    I owe Gus a lot. He was a top photographer and a true gent who will be
    missed by all who knew him.

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  • March 15, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    The Grand Master of the Photographic Art..Never forget him….RIP

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  • March 19, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Gone but not forgotten…a gentleman and lovely man.

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