Jack Coote FRPS FBKS


I feel somewhat  under qualified to write this short biography about Jack Coote. I have used information from Jack's published works and have filled some of the gaps with information supplied to me by Jack's daughter Janet Harber. I am very grateful to Janet for supplying me this information in answer to my many questions. All the text in blue italics are Janet's own words.

Jack Howard Roy Coote was born in 1915.
He did not train in photography but did some sort of apprenticeship in a commercial artist studio in Ipswich and then went on to work in E Anglia doing among other work including some illustrations for a guide book which included drawings of such places at Layer Marney Towers and Audley End. Some of this original artwork was around during my childhood and there were also drawings of racing cars at Brands Hatch (two of JC's brother in laws were Bentley Boys).

He was brought up in Earls Colne, near Halstead in Essex and during the 1930s went to live with family friends in Wembley, met and later married my mother. During this time he must have switched from art to photography. In 1937 he was making dye toned prints for professional photographers using Transferotype paper but I do not know where this was done. By 1938 he was making Chromatone prints.Prior to that I believe there was a connection with Colour Photographs Ltd and Vivex, there was a factory at Willesden (near Wembley) where he may have worked. JC had lost a leg in a motor cycle accident before the war, therefore was not in the armed forces. He married just before WW2 and moved to St Johns Wood.
In July 1939 The Focal Press had published "Making Colour Prints" by JC. Jack throughout his life was a prolific author this book alone by January 1949 was in its tenth impression. This is an outstanding achievement in its own right because of  the effects of the war and the limited availability of sensitised materials. I would recommend this now out of print book to anybody who wants an insight into the making of colour prints before the days of multi-layer materials like Kodacolor and Agfacolor. The book went on to be revised and reprinted 18 times.

On p.127 of Hist of Col Phot there is reference to him making prints from Technicolour negs, for the British Council in 1940.
The Tri-Tone process that Jack invented was used to make these prints. See page 92 of Hist of Col Phot for more detail.  At this time the British Council was promoting Britishness and the British way of life from a cultural perspective. The photographers who worked for them were J Allan Cash and Harold White. Have a look at my web site about Harold White and the village of Lacock and also read the book "Camera Globetrotter" by J Allan Cash who gives his personal perspective on the British Council and the eventual fate of its photographic department.

Janet Harber continues: - 
I was born in 1943 and we were then living near Lords Cricket Ground and JC was involved in a photographic business based in a house nearby in Queens Grove where his parents lived (in some sort of care taker capacity) in the upper floors. There was a studio and office and an Eastern European? gentleman named Fraunhofer seemed to be in charge (this is my childhood memory). How the business was funded, I know not. A great deal of film stock was stored in metal canisters at our house and at some time after the war there was a fire.

After the war Jack turned his attentions to colour cinematography and was involved with British Tricolour. An article by JC published in the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers in June 1948 page 543, describes the beam splitter colour camera that was constructed by JC's brother-in-law Gilbert Murray. Although the process was originally called British Tricolour it was renamed as Dufaychrome when Dufay Chromex acquired it in 1947.
At this time, 1947, we moved to Teddington in Middlesex when JC was working at the Dufaychrome labs in Thames Ditton . I am not sure exactly when the move to Rosedale Road Richmond was made, or when Ilford became involved although I do have memories of going to the lab there and doing some work in the school holidays. Have a look at Brian Pritchard's web site and see a bit more about British Tricolour.

In 1952 Jack joined Ilford Limited to set-up a printing service for Ilford Colour Film Type D a transparency film introduced by Ilford in 1948. Special machines were built by Ilford to print this and the later colour negative materials that are described elsewhere on this web site. By 1969 Ilford Limited stopped manufacturing colour films under its own label but did continue to make and supply colour films to the Film Corporation of America for a few more years. In 1970 until 1976 Jack was Head of Technical Services at Ilford Limited. During this period many patents were filed for many devices. Take a look at http://gb.espacenet.com and  search for "Jack Howard Roy Coote" and "Arthur Phillip Jenkins" to see the vast numbers of patents that they filed.
JC and Philip Jenkins (Jenks) were old friends. I think they met before WW2, through a family connection. Subsequently Jack became a consultant to Ilford Ltd. The books continued with "Monochrome Darkroom Practice"  the "Focal Guide to Cibachrome" and "The Illustrated History of Colour  Photography" among others. The Illustrated History, published in 1993, is an excellent book with loads of photographs of machines, cameras and examples of prints, although it's out of print I would highly recommend this book to anybody interested in real photography. Also in 1970 Jack had "Photofinishing Techniques published by the Focal Press. Any student studying the photofinishing industry needs this book as it has the lot. There are numerous references in each chapter to patents and articles in various journals. To my knowledge this is the only published work on photofinishing that covers the machinery in detail, but of course it only goes up to 1970.

In addition to his photographic books Jack also had a very large number of books published on nautical subjects. "East Coast Rivers" first published 1956 continues to revised and updated by Jack's daughter Janet Harber.

Sadly Jack Coote died in 1993 shortly after the "Illustrated History" was published. 
He never completely retired after he stopped working full time for Ilford because he was involved in many consultancy projects, expert witness cases, books and articles right up to his death.

Jack was making colour prints before WW2 when there were few materials around to undertake the task. Yet he freely shared the information in "Making Colour Prints." He set up an automated colour print service for Ilford at a time when most UK photofinishers were still undertaking black and white developing and printing using labour intensive manual methods. When he started at Ilford there were no automatic colour printers in existence. Further innovations in print production were applied to the Ilford colour negative materials when these were marketed. I do not think any of his achievements came to him the easy way. It is doubtful that so much as a fragment of any of this equipment exists today so Jack's lasting legacies are from his writings. From small articles to complete books it is obvious that Jack Coote was at the cutting edge of the technologies of the times. Future students of photographic history should be grateful to him for having the foresight to write it down. Without Jack Coote the photofinishing industry would have little record of its past. In the "Illustrated History" the foreword is written by Dr Robert Hunt formerly of Kodak, in this he says
" History is not, as Henry Ford once said, bunk; any student of colour photography can learn much from its history, and Jack Coote's book will be a valuable aid in this regard, as well as providing an enjoyable experience for the more general reader." Thank you Jack for allowing us to be able to look into your working professional life.