Camera above the Clouds The aviation Photographs of Charles E. Brown

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Camera Above the Clouds — The Aviation Photographs Of Charles E. Brown”. Compiled and Edited by Anthony Harold. 163 pp. 10 3/4 in x 8 1/2 in. (Airlift Publishing Ltd, 7, St John’s Hill, Shrewsbury, SY1 1JE £13.95).

This book is a fine tribute, as it is intended to be, to the aviation photography, most of it air to air photography, of that versatile picture-maker Charles E. Brown, 1896-1982, who was taken on the Daily Mirror staff by Hannen Swaffer after he had left school and who went on to become one of the greatest of the aeronautical camera-men, after he had formed his own free-lance agency in 1921. Unlike John Yoxall and Charles Simms who had the deadlines of the weekly aviation magazines for which they worked to hamper them, Brown was free to circulate fine prints and apparently he had no shortage of “rides” in aeroplanes to photograph or from which to photograph others. Most of his rich results were obtained with a Zeiss Palmos with a 6 in Taylor Hobson helical focus lens, which he had bought for £17 15/-, apparently before the First World War. It has its own illustration in this book.

It is a book devoted to the aeroplane pictures Brown secured from the earliest times to well into the post-WW2 era, each one presented on crisp pages to a size of around 6 1/2 in x 8 1/2 in where full-page prints are not used. The aerial pictures are superb, in their great detail, and the background effects they are backed up by some splendid ground pictures, of which I particularly like the one of four Avro Tutors of the University of London Air Squadron being prepared for an afternoon’s flying. But whether Brown is depicting the now distant age of machines like the big Vickers Virginias or Gloster and Hawker biplane fighters or using colour to display Meteors or Fireflys, etc, in modern flight, every one of the chosen prints is magnificent. Far too many to list, the range should satisfy’ the most avid lover of aeroplanes — in fact, my favourite RAF fighter, the Gloster Gamecock isn’t there, but there are Gauntlets aplenty.

Each picture is properly captioned, there is an introduction about the photographer himself, a Foreword by John Tanner, CBE, etc, Director of the RAF Museum, and reference numbers to the pictures, enabling prints to be ordered from that Museum. This is the best book of its kind that I have seen. — WB

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