There are a few iconic images of Hull-born aviator Amy Johnson. Most of them picture her next to a plane having just set off or having just returned from another record-breaking flight. Nines times out of 1o, she’s dressed for the part in jumpsuit and flying goggles. A new photographic collection, Amy Johnson: A Life in Pictures, is a little different.
There are planes, lots of them, but there are also more candid pictures taken behind the scenes of her often gruelling publicity tours and others of her on holiday, enjoying a few days of relaxation between adventures.
“Amy Johnson’s image is already so well known,” says Rick Welton, director of this year’s Amy Johnson Festival in Hull. “But as we developed our plans for the event it became clear that there were many more photographs of Amy which shed a deeper, clearer light on her life and character than the few that are routinely reproduced in biographies. They show the woman and the personality behind the glamorous facade and the ambitious record breaker.”
From early studio photographs before the world knew her name to family snapshots, the book chronicles Johnson’s short life. Born in 1903 when photography was a relatively new medium, by the time of her death in 1941, when her plane went off course during what should have been a routine flight from Prestwick to Oxford, bulky camera equipment had been replaced by lighter handheld devices.
“I think these photographs provide a glimpse of a world in transition,” says Rick. “When Amy flew to Australia in 1930 the majority of her flight was over countries of the British Empire, a world map that was to change radically during the rest of the 20th century. These photographs also document the styles and fashions from the late Edwardian period, through the inter-war years, to the start of the Second World War. Everyone involved in the festival hopes the book is not just a photographic tribute to a remarkable woman, but will introduce many more people to Amy Johnson and her achievements.”
• Amy Johnson: A Life in Pictures is published by Paul Gibson, priced £18.