The QT

Tuesday 18 June 2024

My life through a lens: John Millard

Each week we’re asking a North East-based photographer to open up their archives and select two handfuls of images which encapsulate life as they’ve captured it
John Millard taking a well earned break

John Millard, 52 is a former climbing instructor and professional editorial photographer of more than 25 years.

He was introduced to the joy of capturing the world by his dad who was an ‘avid amateur and very talented‘ photographer but while he can remember taking the first photo he ever took, he never actually saw it.

“I was climbing in the lakes, my dad had given me a camera for my birthday so I took photos of the climb, my climbing partner dropped it off the side of the mountain so I never saw the results.”

A documentary on press photography prompted a 26-year-old John to ‘leg it’ around to the News Guardian offices in Whitley Bay.

“I drove the editor Ross Weeks insane begging for a job,” says John. “I got one.”

Asked what makes him a good photographer, John is reluctant to ‘blow my own conch in public‘ – opting instead to credit a former colleague and ‘amazing press photographer‘ Tim McGuinness with some advice he’s never forgotten.

“He said ‘wear a lot of hats, change them according to the people you meet’. I’ve always stuck by that mantra, I can get on with anyone.

“He also said ‘sod off and leave me alone kid’, but I’ve never held it against him.”

While John cites people as his photographic forte – particularly editorial portraits – he wouldn’t care if never had another Teckel (hairy Dachshund) in his viewfinder.

“I shoot for Country Life magazine and I got sent to do a front cover in the wilds of Northumberland and they had my life. Demonic, blood thirsty, they raided a chicken coop, tore each other to bits. It took five hours over two days to get it right.

“I still wince now when I see one in the street.”

Unlike Harley Davidsons which are always appealing.

“I love those motorbikes and secretive worlds… and I’d do anything for National Geographic,” says John, before namechecking Press Association photographer Owen Humphries as producing ‘sublime work’ and offering this feature’s obligatory trio of tips for aspiring photographers:

Find your niche.

Pursue it then pursue it some more.

Two ears, one gob.

Local surfer, Sandy Kerr. I loved taking the camera in the sea, until it broke my nose
A mountain climber enters one of the emergency escape ice tunnels on the Aiguille Du Midi, Mont Blanc, France
Portrait of Jessica Gray, a friend. So beautiful.
This is Steve Furnell (Steve and Karen breakfast show, Metro Radio) doing a warm up for JLS at the Arena
Can’t remember who this is as it was 20 years ago. At the time it was considered quite extreme to be tattooed that much
This was an Image for a tourism brochure, promoting healthy lifestyles by the coast. There is a portable flash carefully hidden in front of the lady far left
I don’t do landscapes as a rule but this day me and a mate went out in his boat fishing and this just appeared and appealed to me
This was a front cover for Country Life. Don’t be fooled! These two were the stuff of nightmares
Steve Furnell again. The downside to being best mates, he drags me along to escapades like this, setting off at 4am at the source of the south Tyne to run to Tynemouth Longsands in one go, 73 miles, 10pm finish, all for charity
I love this shot of the band Speeder, it was roasting hot and I just caught the moment one of them chucked his top out of shot

See more of John’s work at … and look out for his annual coverage of the Mouth of the Tyne Festival in Tynemouth. This year will be his 17th

Solomon Sheckman, born in North Shields in 1893, created the Newcastle-based Essoldo cinema chain and owned 160 picture houses when he died in 1963. The ES came from his wife Esther; SOL from himself and DO from his daughter Dorothy.

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