Picture: Copyright John Hedgecoe/TopFoto

EXCLUSIVE: Photographer John Hedgecoe (pictured below) who played a key role in the portrait of the Queen that appears on British stamps, has died.

The portrait of Her Majesty is credited as the world’s most reproduced photograph, to date selling more than 200 billion copies.

However, Hedgecoe was also a best-selling author famed in photographic circles for publishing more than 30 titles – selling nine million copies worldwide.

And he will be remembered for establishing the department of Photography at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in 1965.

Hedgecoe died on 3 June, his agency TopFoto said today.

A spokesman for the RCA, where he became Professor of Photography in 1975, told us: ?John Hedgecoe was hugely instrumental in ensuring that photography was accepted as a creative medium in its own right at the Royal College of Art.

‘Whilst emphasising commercial, advertising and documentary photography, John also laid the groundwork for what later became known as ?independent? photography.?

We understand that the photographer, who was in his seventies, died at home after a long illness.

His career began in 1957 when Queen Magazine hired him as a staff photographer, straight from art college.

Paying tribute, Royal Photographic Society president Rosemary Wilman today described the news as a ‘very sad loss’, adding that Hedgecoe’s books and teachings reached millions of photographers of all abilities over the years.

Wilman praised Hedgecoe as ‘unique’ in his field.


Hedgecoe was hailed as the first Professor of Photography in England and wrote books on photographic technique that inspired a generation of photographers.

Earlier this year, Hedgecoe won Amateur Photographer‘s Exceptional Achievement in Photography award.

Hedgecoe’s profile shot of the Queen, captured in the 1960s, was used by sculptor Arnold Machin to make a plaster cast version, which Hedgecoe then re-photographed against a black background for the final stamp image.

Ten years ago the photographer was involved in a heated dispute with the Royal Mail after it said Lord Snowdon’s portraits of the Queen were behind the famous image that appears on stamps worldwide.

Hedgecoe sued – and won damages from – the Royal Mail which conceded that Hedgecoe?s images were a ?significant? aid in the final design.

Sculptures of the Queen?s head by Arnold Machin were based in part on a series of portraits originally taken by Lord Snowdon for the design used on coins.

‘It’s strange to still see my photograph on the stamps after all this time,’ Hedgecoe told Amateur Photographer last year. ‘I think they tried to do a new one some time ago, as they do on coins, but the Queen said she preferred the existing one.’

A spokesman for Hedgecoe’s agency, TopFoto, said: ‘Professor Hedgecoe’s most familiar image is also the world’s most reproduced photograph – the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II that appears on UK and Commonwealth postage stamps – 200 billion copies so far and counting’.

Hedgecoe’s photographs were published by magazines, newspapers and agencies worldwide.

His famous subjects included Agatha Christie, Professor Stephen Hawking and Henry Moore.

The agency spokesman added: ‘TopFoto, which took over the task of scanning and licensing Professor Hedgecoe’s life’s work in 2006, will miss John and our thoughts are with his widow and children.’

Hedgecoe held his Professor of Photography post at the RCA until 1994.

We understand that Hedgecoe gave his last ever interview to Amateur Photographer. It was published in 2009, in the magazine’s special 125th anniversary issue.

In 2008, a Hasselblad camera said to have been used by Hedgecoe to take a picture of the Queen used on postage stamps appeared at auction, but it failed to sell.


John Hedgecoe image

Picture: Courtesy www.topfoto.co.uk

John Hedgecoe, Ken Russell

Picture: Professor John Hedgecoe (centre) pictured with film director Ken Russell (left) and TopFoto’s Alan Smith at Russell’s 80th birthday celebrations