John Cole was a fashion photographer, a realist, a romantic and hi-fi fiend. He lived at the wrong end of Regents Park Road, the end that scratches Camden Town's back and now is becoming the right end. This is how it was described by the Evening Standard back in 1964.
John Cole learned about photography the hard way, a two year apprentiship at Ilfords provided useful know-how about papers, plates, films chemicals and apparatus. Two years of printing for Fox Photos taught him a great deal about mass production of prints and print quality.
His first opportunity to see what he could do with a camera was with Gee and Watson and then a more productive period with Hugh White Studio before setting up his own Studio, "Studio Five" "Photography for Advertising" in Shepherd Market Mayfair in 1956
Studio Five became the place for young photographers to develop their skills under the watchful eye of John Cole. Howard Grey Photographer quotes "John sort of wrote 'The Book' for all the London Photographers who followed him - Bailey, Duffy and Donovan".
The studio provided cameras lighting and assistants and a highly technical back office team who, delveloped, printed and touched up the prints with nothing more than a scalpel balde, brush and paint.
John Cole's assistants included the late Norman Eales, John Cole recalled Norman as "one of the naturals of life. He assisted me for two years but there are assistants who teach you something, and I have always felt he was one of the great photographers" (The Independent 20th January 1989). David Bailey was a photographer for John Cole's Studio Five before being contracted as a fashion photographer for British Vogue magazine in 1960.
John Cole's style as described by the Scotsman in 1962
"John Cole is not only a successful photographer but a sensitive personable, with extraordinary delicacy of approach, to put himself in rapport with many people and with differing people at the same time".
See John Cole the assistant in action in this 1949 British Pathe video clip on how fashion photographs are taken. Several good shots inside studio of Gee and Watson as the model poses.
See John Cole at work in the following video. A Fashion shoot with Twiggy in 1966 at 25:25 mins outside St Pancras station and 34:54 mins at Studio Five.
Studio Five was home to many photographers including :
Norman Eales, Vic Singh, Tony Rawlinson, David Mist, Peter Ogden, Gavin Davis, Gorden Carter, Derek Weston, Robert Dibue, Laurence Sackman, David Bailey, Vernon Dewhurst, Jeremy Bailey, David Radley, Michael Claydon
Just some of the fashion models who passed through the studio include:
Twiggy, Joanna Lumley , Grace Coddington, Pattie Boyd, Pauline Stone, Linda Keith, Georgie Gold, Caroline Saunders, Victoria Vaughan, Celia Hammond, Dorthory Bond, Jill Kennington, Suzy Kendall, Jenney Hanley, Norman Scott, Ros Watkins
John Cole’s Studio Five in Shepard Market, Mayfair, London W.1. - early 60’s.
By Vik Singh
Members of staff included John Cole owner and photographer, Dougie Clarke owner. Other photographers included myself, Norman Eales, David Bailey, Frank Sweeney and Tony Stone. Other members of staff included one receptionist, a darkroom manager, three technicians for film processing and printing, three women retouchers, three photographic assistants and one delivery man.
Studio Five had two studios; a large one downstairs and a smaller daylight studio upstairs.
At the age of nineteen I saw an ad in the daily newspaper:
‘Photographers wanted at studio Five’
I made an appointment and went in with my portfolio to see John Cole.
He said, ‘you can start in two weeks time. Another assistant, David Bailey is starting as a photographer next week’.
A day in the life of Studio Five
I arrived in the morning after greeting our pretty receptionist, then would make my way to the studio complex and the darkroom area to check out the films and contacts from the previous days shoot. I would then go upstairs to the retouching room and have a look at my photographs that the retouchers had finished.
Models & clients would start arriving and getting ready for shoots. On average there would be a model girl arriving every twenty minutes to show her portfolio to the photographers.
John Cole usually worked in the large studio, he would shout loudly at the models while shooting, everybody knew when John was working.
I worked in one of the studios or outside in Shepard Market, weather permitting. Lunchtime was usually spent in a cafe in the Market and in the evening with a friend who lived next to the studio called George Hastings, Dudley Moore would arrive and play the piano with George on the double base. Dudley had a jazz group in the early 60’s called The Dudley Moore Trio who played in a West End jazz club.
Studio Five became a popular and famous London studio at that time. With the young photographers “doing their thing” seeing in the birth of the “Swinging 60’s” a mix of fashion, music and industry.