John Walmsley Surrey, United Kingdom
  Back to profiles

I've worked as a freelance documentary photographer since leaving Art School in 1968. My final year project on A.S. Neill and his democratic school, Summerhill, was published as a Penguin Education Special in 1969. My work is in the Permanent Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, London, and la Bibliothèque national de France, Paris.

I particularly like photographing people, ordinary people, doing what they do. Most of the sets of pictures which have 'lasted' were ones I self-started and self-financed. They can all be seen on my Flickr site.

I'd like to have more work in exhibitions so I'm very happy to have found Curator Space. I've exhibited work at the National Portrait Gallery twice and at the Bluecoat, Liverpool, but also like to show in smaller, less obvious places. When the Charing Cross Hospital, London, was opened, I put up a temporary exhibition there which was great for all the people with time on their hands. It brightened their day.

At the end of summer terms, I used to work with school kids, often the less academic but, I always thought, more enthusiastic and entrepreneurial spirits, and we'd spend the week on a project of their choice.

I now have a motto: 'Artists should be paid, too'. It seems to me that people do not think they should have to pay for art. "It's there on the web so I can use it, right?" I give talks to artists, actors, photographers about what to do when someone uses your expensively produced work and refuses to pay for it. On this subject, I'm amazed that one artist will copy the work of another or incorporate it into their 'new work', without even asking or giving any credit to the riginal artist. I've suffered from this and it makes me very cross. Please do not do it. It's nice to ask.

With social media, I'm a lone voice in the forest. I've read their T+Cs and read about the people who own and run those sites and the way they treat young people. I don't want anything to do with them so I don't 'Do' social media. Many artists, on the other hand, find it works for them. But, it all looks too dangerous to me. Flickr and LinkedIn are OK, though.


70436. Vanessa Redgrave & Tariq Ali leading the anti-Vietnam war demonstration to Grosvenor Square,, Photography, 1968


73958. Rainbow cloud., Photography, 2010


75841. Gala Day at Wester Hailes, Edinburgh where I was Photographer in Residence for the Scottish , Photography, 1979


120873. Apache helicopter at the Farnborough Air Show., Photography, 2016


61293. Fashion Show put on by FE students., Photography, 2009


72732. Bonfires in the grounds of Summerhill School., Photography, 1968


77382. President Richard Nixon arriving at the US Embassy, London, 1969., Photography, 1969


73734. 'Scallop' by Maggie Hambling, Aldeburgh, Suffolk., Photography, 2010


90859. , Photography, 1968


71999. Cirrus clouds., Photography, 2011


72213. 'Macbeth', performed by students at the Rose Bruford College., Photography, 2010


124657. An effigy of British Prime Minister, Theresa May, outside the Houses of Parliament, during, Photography, 2019


74920. Elizabeth Fritsch, ceramicist, and Veryan Weston, jazz piano, at Digswell Arts Centre., Photography, 1977


77218. Walter Segal, architect., Photography, 1975


77160. The hands and cigar of Cedric Price, architect., Photography, 1975


Previous projects


Exhibition of my early B&W work.


Exhibition of my early B&W work, much of it shot in Guildford, from the 60s and 70s, at Guildford Museum. The space was limited (25 framed prints) so I bought a flatscreen TV and put the other 300 on there. We put out a couple of chairs and people would sit and chat together about the years gone by in the town. Several times people returned...

[Read more]
Guildford Museum., Guildford, Surrey. Details

Exhibition for patients and visitors


The present Charing Cross Hospital opened in 1973. It seemed to me a hospital was a great venue for a photographic exhibition so I proposed one of my work. Two weeks later it was up. I don't remember the exact date so it might have been 1973 or 1974 and I have no photos of it. Kodak kindly lent the free-standing boards and delivered them to...

[Read more]
Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham, West London. Details

Poster for exhibition at Foto Galerie die Brucke, Vienna.


Exhibition of my Summerhill photos in Vienna, 1971-72.

Foto Galerie die Brucke., Vienna, Austria Details

AIRs at Digswell Arts Centre.


Between 1972 and 1976, I was one of the Artists in Residence at Digswell House, Welwyn. We each had somewhere to live and work and would do projects which brought the community into the building. Liz Fritsch, ceramicist, was another of the artists and lived just along the corridor from me. This photo shows her pots on her grand piano (she...

[Read more]
Digswell Arts Centre, Welwyn, Herts. Details

'Faces of the Century', a major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

22/10/1999 to 30/01/2000

An exhibition to celebrate the millenium. Ten well-known people each selected ten photographs which represented the period to them. Helena Kennedy included my photo of Vanessa Redgrave & Tariq Ali leading the ant-Vietnam war protest march to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square where there was a violent confrontation with the police. A...

[Read more]
National Portrait Gallery, London Details

'Neill & Summerhill: a man and his work', a Penguin Education Special by John Walmsley with a text by Leila Berg, 1969.


In my last year at art school, I heard of A.S.Neill's democratic school, 'Summerhill'. Neill allowed me to come and take photos so I made three trips and immediately felt at home there. Penguins published the book of my photos with a text by Leila Berg. Leila and I then worked together for 35 years on numerous books for or about childhood...

[Read more]
n/a Details

AIR at Wester Hailes, Edinburgh


The Wester Hailes Education Centre (the WHEC) was Scotland's largest purpose-built Community High School. It was open all day, every day to all ages, including adults. I was given a house locally and was attached to the school for 3 weeks working with the kids as well as shooting the neighbourhood. It produced a booklet and an exhibition. ...

[Read more]
Wester Hailes Education Centre, Edinburgh, Scotland. Details

'Finding Our Voice'

26/05/2018 to 08/07/2018

In 1968, I was a student at the Guildford School of Art. We were unhappy at the quality of teaching and structure of the courses so the students and concerned staff met to discuss what could be done and then asked to talk with the governors. They refused again and again so we began a sit-in which became the longest ever at a UK educational...

[Read more]
Guildford House Gallery, Guildford Details

Protest and standing up for yourself.


Liverpool John Moore's University held a four day festival called, 'Time Tunnel' and invited me to talk to, mainly, Fine Art Students about protest, after my involvement with the long sit-in at the Guildford School of Art in 1968. I'm concerned that students these days are not given enough real life advice for a very demanding business...

[Read more]
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Details

Anna Scher Children's Theatre, 1972.


In 1972, I spent many happy evenings photographing the Anna Scher Childen's Theatre in Islington. As with my other projects, I did it because it was interesting, fascinating, and was great for these local kids. This publication is one of the six of my work published by Café Royal Books: The lad on the cover is a...

[Read more]
Islington, London Details

Postcards, lots of postcards.


I've always liked postcards. Even well-printed, they're still cheap enough for anyone to buy. I've produced 46 of them and most are available to buy through Etsy:

n/a Details
Interested in
Artist TalkCommissionExhibitionJournal/Publication
Artists’ booksDigitalPhotography
Other keywords