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275 years of visual journalism in the north and north-east

How we tell our stories has come a long way over the last 275 years, particularly since the introduction of illustrations in the 1880s. Let's look back at how The Press and Journal has served its readers in the paper - and then online - using illustrations, photography, and more recently, video.

275 Years of visual journalism in the north and north-east.
275 Years of visual journalism in the north and north-east.

Pictures speak 1,000 words and have been integral in the way The Press and Journal has delivered the news for almost three centuries.

Advances in technology, cameras, printing and developing images, alongside the move from print to online journalism, have changed the way our stories have been told through photography over the years.

From advertisements to illustrations, the introduction of photographs at the turn of the 20th Century injected a new lease of life into our pages.

Black and white images appeared at first, followed by colour pictures in the 1990s.

And today, as we have taken the news online, readers are now treated to moving images and videos which greatly enhance content that’s in the palms of their hands.

These visual elements in our storytelling mark a moment in time as told through the lens of a photographer or the artistry of an illustrator.

The introduction of creative ways to report the news helps fire the imaginations of our readers and puts them at the centre of the story.

This month, we look back at the best of our visual journalism and at how the tools we have used to tell the most compelling stories in print and online have evolved.

Front page news

The front page of The Press and Journal has come a long way over the years.

Initially, it was filled with foreign news and intelligence, but it soon included prominent advertising space, the revenues from which helped to keep down the cost of the newspaper for readers.

In 1939, headlines as we now know them were introduced, allowing readers’ eyes to instantly locate news of interest to them.

Picture shows; Front cover from The Press and Journal, featuring advertisements, July 25, 1860.. N/A. Supplied by DCT Archives Date; Unknown

Notable front covers

News of national and international importance has become an essential factor in our lives, and the front page has always been the place to carry the most important news of the day.

Have a look back at some of our notable front covers down the years.

Introduction of illustrations

From the 1880s, advances in printing meant we were able to start introducing small line drawings into our stories to help illustrate the people and places being described.

The drawings took a high level of skill to create and were considerably time-consuming – and time on newspaper schedules is always tight!

Line drawings

Line drawings used in the paper to illustrate new proposed buildings in Aberdeen – the Aberdeen Art Gallery in 1884 and the Crown Street Post Office in 1902.

Visual Journalism Picture shows; Line drawings used to illustrate Aberdeen Art Gallery, 1884.

Marischal College extension

On September 6 1906, layout drawings of the Marischal College extension were printed in the paper.

This was a feat of technical engraving to get such clear and detailed reproductions.

Marishcal College extension plans, September 6, 1906.

Storytelling through photography

The advent of photography was a turning point in the way we could tell stories. Bringing immediacy to support our words, we began to use photographs in the paper from the first decade of the 1900s. Initially, these were studio-style portraits of notable individuals.

As photography became quicker and easier, we employed our own photographers to visit people and locations to take images to complement our reports.

From the 1960s onwards, though, photographs would often be the story – either through image-led journalism or small feature pieces where a photo of a community event or personality was accompanied by a caption.  

Introduction of photography

In a supplement issued on January 10 1906, photographs of the general election candidates for north-east constituencies were printed. The election took place between January 12 and February 8.

Picture shows; General election candidates, January 10, 1906.

Early usage of photography in the paper

Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, the use of photography in the paper became more frequent. During the early to mid 1920s, the publication dedicated half a page every Saturday purely to photography to illustrate news stories from the north-east.

Picture shows; Front cover of The Press and Journal, August 25, 1939.

Increased use of photography

Starting with the 1960s, The Press and Journal began to contain a lot more images. There would be roughly 40 pictures per paper, a significant increase compared with previous decades.

More so than just increased usage of photography, these images started to focus on more diverse topics, places and people.

Previously, the few images added to the paper were mainly of the royal family, public or notable figures and important events, but now the images started to quite often display readers of the paper and various local goings-on.

Aberdeen FC supporters, 1960

Use of colour

Our first use of colour was in a 1902 coronation supplement. The effort and work involved in doing this was so great they resisted doing it again for many years.

Colour was slowly introduced from the 1960s onwards, and by the 1990s we were able to bring you a paper in full colour, most notably in photographic imagery.

The Royal Coronation

A “Royal Coronation Number” colour supplement to mark the coronation of Edward VII was issued with the greatest number of colours ever printed in a newspaper in Aberdeen. Colour wasn’t used in such a way again in the paper until 1963.

This was also the first three-colour paper printed in Aberdeen and involved a great many unpaid hours.

Royal Coronation Number, August 11, 1902.

Colour photography

From the late 1980s, colour photography started to make its way into The Press and Journal, at first only occasionally, becoming more commonplace in the 1990s.

Stonehaven Folk Festival: Aqua Ceildh. Jen Sutherland of Galik Bred. Stonehaven open air pool. Supplied by DCT Archives Date; 17 July, 1999

War time imagery

The Second World War saw the public turn to their trusted P&J for up-to-date news on developments, especially when their loved ones were serving away from home.

Imagery played a far greater role in our journalism than it had over the course of the First World War – technology had come on leaps and bounds and the advent of wire telephony meant pictures could be sent down phone lines, so images taken overseas could be used quickly.

Wired photography

The outbreak of the Second World War meant the paper became smaller as newsprint supplies diminished and costs increased. As a result, the full page of daily photography ceased to exist.

Images began to appear more regularly on the front page, particularly relating to the war.

The innovation of wirephoto technology, which allowed photography to be transmitted by electrical signals over telephone wires, meant the paper was able to use photography taken overseas for the first time to illustrate wartime news stories, sometimes from the front line.

Front cover of The Press and Journal, March 9, 1944.

Wartime glass plate negatives

Our collection of glass plate negatives that were taken by staff photographers during the Second World War tell the story of what Aberdeen and north-east communities endured. From conscription, women at work and rationing to air raids and eventually VE celebrations, our collection of images have been heavily featured in the paper over the years.

Air Raid Shelter 25 September, 1940.

New ways of storytelling

Advances in technology made the telling of stories in new ways more accessible than ever. News in the palm of your hand, news on the go and live updates were concepts that were hard to believe until only recently.

Advances in videography and editing video footage quickly and easily have made it possible for us to give our audiences the most up-to-date news in ways that they choose – from video and pictures galleries to podcasts and even documentaries.

Missing from The Broch

Our 2021 documentary, Missing From The Broch, explored the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Fraserburgh man Shaun Ritchie.

On Halloween night in 2014, Shaun Ritchie travelled in a van with seven other people to a remote farmhouse a few miles from Fraserburgh and was never seen again.

Missing from The Broch: Our documentary reveals new details surrounding Shaun Ritchie’s disappearance

The best of our photography

A picture is worth 1,000 words – explore a selection of poignant photographs taken by The Press and Journal down the years in the gallery below.


The crowd gathering on Merkland Road East, Aberdeen, for the 1935 Aberdeen v Celtic football match.

Territorial training with search lights in Aberdeen in 1939.

Removing guns in front of Robert Gordons College.

Land army girls and Home Guard marching on parade.

An ARP test in Union Street. Smoke bombs are set off and passers by – on foot or bicycle – don gas masks.

Home Guard invasion exercise in Aberdeen.

World War II. Clement Attlee visits a lumber camp at Glenmuick.

A dignified protest in 1951 during the campaign to have the black singer Paul Robeson who was an advocate of black rights, elected rector of Aberdeen University.

One of Aberdeen’s early multi-storey buildings, Gilcomstoun Land residential flats takes shape in this undated picture.

The date is March 16, 1960, and the most expensive player in Britain is getting a hard time from the young fans in Woodside, Aberdeen. Denis Law, just transferred to Manchester City from Huddersfield for a British record fee of £53,000, is home visiting his family at Printfield Terrace.

A disappointed youngster learns the swings and roundabouts at city playgrounds have been closed because of the typhoid epidemic.

Little Calum Shand of Primary 3. Hazlehead Primary School is in danger of losing his morning milk if he doesn’t hand over money to pretty students Joy Anderson (left) and Anne McDonald who visited his school today.

Stranded Karemma, the Leith-registered trawler which ran aground at Aberdeen provides a spectacle for visitors to Aberdeen Beach.

One of the many moments of Royal happiness in Aberdeen yesterday as the gaily smiling Queen steps close to the thronging crowd to have a word with one particular group of flag-wavers. This picture was taken just outside St Nicholas House in Broad Street.

The New Zealand All Blacks perform the Haka Maori war dance before their match against the Scottish North & Midland team at Linksfield Stadium, Aberdeen. The All Blacks trounced the North-Midlands Select 31-3.

The wreckage of the aircraft’s rear fuselage back on dry land having been hauled out of the water.

The scene that says it all… Aberdeen FC manager Alex Ferguson holds the Premier League Championship Trophy aloft from atop the special bus at the city’s Castlegate to the delighted cheers and waves of the crowds who thronged the streets for the special parade which became a sunshine all the way reception.

European Cup Winners’ Cup, final, Gothenberg, Sweden. Aberdeen 2 v 1 Real Madrid. The Dons acknowledge their huge support. From the left: Bryan Gunn, Andy Watson, Ian Angus, John Hewitt, Stuart Kennedy, Alex McLeish, Neale Cooper, Doug Rougvie, Neil Simpson, Eric Black, Peter Weir, Gordon Strachan, Mark McGhee, John McMaster, Jim Leighton, Willie Miller.

The ferocious storm swamps the breakwater at the Peterhead Bay of Refuge and in the foreground the lifeboat James and Mariska Joicey is tossed around in the “calmer” waters of the bay as she makes her way to the grounded oil rig Ali Baba.

The Prince of Wales was crowned during his Royal visit to Shetland – but found the Viking headgear a touch too heavy. Prince Charles and Princess of Wales were in Lerwick as part of their island tour and were greeted by a host of warriors from the famous Up Helly-Aa festival.

The ordeal of Jackie Stuart… a grinning Sammy Ralston stands behind. The scene from Peterhead Prison when an officer was forced to stand on the edge of the roof.

Smoke and flames pour from all that remains of the Piper Alpha platform.

Prince Harry, first official engagement in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, visits Transition Exreme.

The P&J behind the scenes at His Majesty’s Theatre project, Scottish Ballet production of “The Nutcracker” at HMT, Aberdeen. Bethany Kingsley Garner, the Sugar Plum Fairy, prepares for opening night.

Scottish Independence march in Aberdeen. From Albyn Place, down Union Street and to the Castlegate.

Pictured is a sign on a home on Landale Road, Peterhead during the Coronavirus Outbreak lockdown, 2020.

The first carriage ( engine ) being removed at the Stonehaven rail crash site crash site.

A man plays the violin at the peace gathering, co-hosted by Aberdeen Trades Union Council is joining CND NE Scotland and Aberdeen Social Centre.

Aberdeen FC open top bus parade down Union Street with the Scottish League Cup. Pictured is the bus making its way down Union Street.

Drugs are seized in Buckie at the Highlander hotel by the Police Scotland Drug Squad.

Special Olympics GB’s World Winter Games team – who were supposed to be going to Russia in January 2023. Training in Aberdeen, the team of 10 alpine skiers and six ice skaters.

The Queen’s procession at the King George VI Bridge.

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, headed for a tour of the stands on display for day 2 of the SNP party conference.