TopFoto is one of the world's great independent photographic archives.
The story so far
Founded in 1927 by influential English freelance photographer John Topham, working from 1927-1975 and published in Illustrated, Daily Mirror, PicturePost, Life magazine, Farmers Weekly, TopFoto (originally Topham Picture Library) has been built up by two generations of the Smith family into what it is today: an expanding, independent picture agency of fascinating range and depth so you can license great images.
The heart of the TopFoto archive is made up of millions of original negatives and hardcopy prints from a number of thriving 20th Century historic British press agencies from the glory days of Fleet Street (c.1905-1969), collected and acquired by the Smiths during the 1970s and 1980s, together with original engravings from the early 1800s and glass plate negatives from the early 1900s.
We own some uniquely important photographer collections including over 3,000 negatives and prints taken by the late filmmaker Ken Russell (1950s), and the archive of key Illustrated and PicturePost photographer George Douglas known as “Speedy George” (1940s-1950s) and definitive English documentary photographer John Topham (1927-1975).
TopFoto has been involved in 4 EU part-funded projects primarily as a content partner to Europeana, and in 2020/2021 was awarded a grant by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, from the Cultural Recovery Fund, to support the internationally signficant archive.
In 2021, as part of our Lottery funded project, we appointed our inaugural Writer-in-Residence, Rommi Smith to work with historic photographs of inspiration from the archive.
Based in the UK, we work with over 50 global partners, representing some of the finest photography collections in the world.
We were founder members of BAPLA which is the UK trade association for picture libraries and agencies and are represented at CEPIC , the Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage which attracts the world's picture industry at the annual CEPIC congress. We are also a proud founder member of PhotoConsortium , a network of photographic archives, including public institutions and private agencies, collectors and private content holders from all over Europe.
Exhibition organisers, fashion houses, book publishers, TV producers, filmmakers, infrastructure project managers, museums, news organisations, magazines…. every day, worldwide, busy account holders download and license what they need, or send our research team to fast-search the archive.
From cruise ships to the space programme, there is virtually no kind of project or customer we haven’t supplied since that original expansion in the 1970s when the Smiths heard, over the phone line, a joyful news editor calling out: “hold the press, Topham have got it”.