James Cameron

James Cameron

James Cameron was born in Battersea, London on 17th June, 1911. His father, William Cameron, was a barrister and novelist. After leaving school he worked as an office boy for the Weekly News. He worked for newspapers in Dundee and Glasgow before joining the Daily Express in 1940.

Cameron witnessed atom bomb tests in 1946. Shocked by what he saw he became a strong opponent of the possession of these weapons and later helped form the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

In 1950 Tom Hopkinson sent Cameron and Bert Hardy to report on the Korean War for the Picture Post. While in Korea the two men produced three illustrated stories for Picture Post. This included the landing of General Douglas MacArthur and his troops at Inchon. Cameron also wrote a piece about the way that the South Koreans were treating their political prisoners. Edward G. Hulton, the owner of the magazine, considered the article to be "communist propaganda" and Hopkinson was forced to resign.

Cameron now covered world events for the News Chronicle (1952-60). Michael Foot has argued: "Cameron's genius flowed in the truly great and truly liberal News Chronicle of those times. Many contributed to the triumph: Sir Gerald Barry, his editor; Tom Baistow, his foreign editor; and Vicky, the cartoonist, soon to become the closest friend of all. His passion and his wit and his readiness to fit every incident into the worldwide scene were all part of his charm. His matchless integrity was part of it too, and yet he could wear his armour without a hint of pride or piety. He could raise journalism to the highest level of literature, like a Swift or a Hazlitt."

Cameron also wrote several books including Men of Our Time (1963), Witness in Vietnam (1966), an autobiography, Point of Departure (1967), Indian Summer: A Personal Experience of India (1974), The Making of Israel (1976) and The Best of Cameron (1983).

James Cameron died on 26th January 1985.

Primary Sources

(1) Tom Hopkinson lost his job as editor of Picture Post after publishing a story on the treatment of political prisoners during the Korean War.

During their time in Korea Hardy and Cameron made three picture stories, the most dramatic of these being the record of General MacArthur's landing at Inchon, the port of Seoul. Seoul was not only the capital of Korea but the key centre of communications for the invading armies - North Koreans backed by Chinese - now operating far down to the south after driving the South Koreans and their allies into what Cameron called "the toehold enclave of Pusan". The Inchon landing effectively cut the legs from under the attackers, dramatically reversing the whole military situation. This was the second most powerful seaborne invasion ever launched - only that against Normandy five years earlier having been bigger - and our two men were the only British photo-journalists present.

The Inchon landing was not the only story our two men had sent back, and one of the others posed a problem. Text and photographs showed vividly how the South Koreans, with at least the connivance of their American allies, were treating their political prisoners, suspected opponents of the tyrant Synghman Rhee. Rhee himself would in due course be ditched as the insupportable head of an intolerable regime by the American protectors who had kept him in power for so long; but that was still ten years on into the future, and in the meantime Rhee and his henchmen were our gallant allies and the upholders of our Christian democratic way of life. By the 1980s we have all seen treatment of prisoners more openly murderous than that revealed in Hardy's pictures, and Cameron's accompanying article would today be accounted mild. But in the climate of that time, with British and Australian troops involved in the fighting, any criticism of South Koreans was certain to be regarded as criticism of 'our' side. Such criticism, moreover, being anti-Western, must inevitably be 'pro-Eastern', and hence - with only a small distortion of language - 'Communist propaganda', a crime of which I was already being accused by my employer.

(2) James Cameron, wrote about his experiences working with Bert Hardy as a war reporter in an article published in Picture Post: 1938-50 (1970)

I feel now that I must always have cut a rather futile figure as a war-correspondent, however often I was obliged to pose as one. For one thing I was almost continually afraid. Not particularly, I think, of getting killed, which seemed to be happening to most people, but of getting maimed and invalidated and left hanging around with legs or eyes and balls shot off; I never in the least fancied that. On the Korean assignment, as on many others, I was fortunately reinforced by my old mate and colleague Bert Hardy, and one of the good things about that was that Bert was no more of a John Wayne type than I. One of the daunting things in those days was to be attached to a cameraman with heroic instincts, who would follow the sound of the cannon as I follow the sound of the clinking glass, and who would shame one into dramatic gestures of great unwisdom.

Bert was, I am sure, as alarmed as I was, but there was one signal difference in our roles: he had to take the pictures, and it was long ago established that one way you cannot take pictures is lying face-down in a hole. I spent considerable periods of time doing that. Bert, on the other hand, was plying his trade upright in the open, cursing the military exigencies that had organized this invasion in the middle of the night. One of my enduring memories of that strange occasion is of Bert Hardy on the seawall of Blue Beach, blaspheming among the impossible din, and timing his exposures to the momentary flash of the rockets. That is the difference between the reporter's trade and the cameraman's. His art can never be emotion recalled in tranquillity. Ours can - or could be: the emotion is easy; the tranquillity more elusive.

(3) James Cameron, Picture Post (7th October, 1950)

They have been in jail now for indeterminate periods - long enough to have reduced their frames to skeletons, their sinews to string, their faces to a translucent terrible grey, their spirit to that of cringing dogs. They are roped and manacled. They are compelled to crouch in the classic Oriental attitude of submission in pools of garbage. They clamber, the lowest common denominator of personal degradation, into trucks with the numb air of men going to their death. Many of them are. The spectacle is utterly medieval. Among the crowds drifting indifferently around, a few bystanders take snapshots, grinning.

(4) The Times (25th October, 1950)

Mr Edward Hulton states with the deepest regret that, following a dispute about the handling of material about the Korean war, he has instructed Mr Tom Hopkinson to relinquish the position of editor of Picture Post. There is no personal hostility between Mr Hulton and Mr Hopkinson. Mr Ted Castle, associate editor of Picture Post and for six years the assistant editor of the paper, is the new editor.