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.
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 www.polperropress.co.uk.