Leslie Overend’s huge collection
of photographs, on glass plate and film, offers a unique
insight into life in the 20th century, particularly
the lives of working-class people from in and around
the West Riding (of Yorkshire) towns of Morley, Batley
In the early days when few people owned cameras, faces
sold newspapers. Leslie used to say, nay preach, that
for every person who had his or her picture in the newspaper,
you could guarantee selling at least a couple of papers,
and quite often a number of prints. He said that if
he had a picture of a group of children published, every
parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc would want a copy
for himself or herself.
Taking clever, arty pictures was never Leslie’s
aim. His work invariably featured bunches of people,
groups of people, even crowds of people. But, despite
the technical difficulties of the times – the
relatively primitive cameras and lenses, the vagaries
(and dangers) of flashpowder, the now archaic methods
of image development and printing - the quality of Leslie’s
work was always high.
a professional career that spanned some 65 years, Leslie
covered every aspect of newspaper photography. He took
pictures from the top of buildings, from open-cockpit
aircraft, from the side of football pitches, inside
churches, during royal visits, at markets, at hundreds
of weddings and even more dinners, teas and jumble sales.
But he always had the same goal… get the picture,
get the names, then deliver them both in plenty of time
to get them in the paper.
He became one of the best-known people in the Morley,
Batley and Dewsbury area. There can’t be many
people who lived there who never found him or herself
in his viewfinder, or who was never touched by his work.
From these basic facts you can gather that Leslie must
have taken tens of thousands of photographs in his time.
until about 1955 he took all his pictures using glass
the early days, he would often cover professional football
matches. Grounds didn’t have floodlights in those
days – and cameras didn’t have the power
of flashbulbs to help. In winter, Leslie had to make
sure he had taken his picture, or pictures, before half-time.
He told me that once you began to notice people lighting
their cigarettes in the stands – meaning the flare
of their lighters or matches – it was too late
for pictures; the day’s light had gone.
Technical problems were one thing; economy was another.
Leslie once related a story about a Saturday more than
50 years ago when he was asked to cover a society wedding
and a crucial Huddersfield Town First Division match.
Jobs duly completed he returned to the office only to
be told off for using all six plates.
Glass plates, of course, were - and
remain – extremely fragile. Leslie changed his
working headquarters a number of times
during his career and, sadly, every time he moved a
of plates were destroyed.
Many of Leslie’s
old glass plates exist today, but such was the erratic
nature of his filing, it is not
absolutely clear what every
In the 1950s he moved to film photography – using
2.5in square negatives. Tens of thousands of his negatives
from this time right up to his retirement in 1983, survive
to this day. Fortunately, Leslie’s method of filing
his film negatives was much improved.
He did a limited amount of colour work - weddings, commercial,
legal, etc - but the vast majority of his pictures were
taken in black and white. He always took great pride
in developing and printing his own work, often working
late into the night in his darkroom, and always turning
out quality work to deadline.
If you want to know more about Leslie’s work,
or maybe inquire about that special time he took your
or your loved one’s picture please click here: