John Topham








(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Boy in Motor Tyre 1933 -12 x 16" Silver Gelatin Estate Print £395
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Bexley Heath Swimming Baths open in Kent 1936
(c) John Topham/Topfoto- Kent miners shatter target on Eve of The Mines Nationalisation 1946
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Press Photographer in gas mask - 1939
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Children of Hop pickers take shelter to watch Battle of Britain 1940
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Soldier dressed in bonnet sewing - 1940
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Vapour Trails over Sidcup suggest aerial combat between fighter aircraft. 1940
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Man on Chimney Stack
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Girl Guide Rally, Kent 1934
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Woman Riding Bicycle 1949
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Women Splashiing water on a barge Norfolk 1934
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Bathers Tower Bridge 1933
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Barges on the River Thames 1938
(c) John Topham/ Topfoto - Children taking Vitamin D 1946
(c) John Topham/Topfoto - Sheltering with children and grandchildren in hop pickers hut 1946

Online exhibition due to Covid. Please order online via

12 x 16" Estate Stamped Silver Gelatin Prints are £395 Edition of 50. Printed by Robin Bell

John Topham

British Social Documentary Photographer 1908-1992

John Topham began his working life as a policeman in the East End of London in the 1920s, where he carried a camera and took photographs of daily life in Kent, especially around the Sidcup area. A now very famous photograph of Mary Smith, a “knocker-up” who woke London dock workers with a peashooter, was his first published photograph. He sold it for five pounds, a week's wages, to the Daily Mirror newspaper, and decided to become a free-lance photographer.

He worked steadily from 1927 to 1973, documenting the "ordinary way of life of ordinary people...the little things of life - the way it really was."  He is particularly noted for his photographs taken during the World War II era - with several appearing in Life magazine. He amassed 121,228 negatives including 20,000 glass negatives of his earliest work before selling his entire collection, with all rights, to TopFoto in 1975.

Topham joined the RAF as a photographer in 1941 and was soon drafted into Intelligence.

During the early part of WW2, John Topham, or 'Top' as he was known, had a contract with Life Magazine as well as being a freelancer. He would regularly get calls from national newspapers directing him to photograph areas of war damage or action.

His most famous image shows the children of hop pickers watching the aerial 'dogfights' of the Battle of Britain. It was used in a propaganda campaign alongside the slogan "Help England And It Won't Happen Here" which helped to convince millions of Americans to join the war against Nazi Germany In 2009 the image was used to publicise 'Outbreak' - the major Imperial War Museum exhibition commemorating 70 years since the start of World War II. In the same year it was used on the cover design of the Imperial War Museum book 'Outbreak: 1939: The World Goes to War'

After the war, he refused offers of staff jobs in the RAF to become a freelance photographer again, working mainly in South East England and Scotland.

For queries please call Lucy Bell on 07979 407629

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For press images or interviews please contact Lucy Bell.

01424 434 828