a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Escaping internment and working as a cameraman


Working for Paul Rotha, zoo photos and meeting my wife
Wolfgang Suschitzky Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Rotha looked at my pictures and liked them and he said ‘Well, you can be an assistant here, but I can’t pay you anything because you haven’t got a work permit’. But I of course accepted that and was appointed an assistant to a young man who was engaged on a series of zoo films. So, we set out every morning before eight to the zoo or to Whipsnade. Julian Huxley was then secretary of the Zoological Society, and I always had my still camera — as we called it — with me, and I took pictures as we went along. We had all facilities we needed. We had holes cut into fences to put our lens through, or we could enter cages of animals who... which were not dangerous. And I think I was one of the first who took animal portraits, not just zoological pictures — four legs and the tail — but real kind of animal portraits.

What sort of equipment did you use for that?

I used a single lens reflex camera in those days, two and a quarter square, and did all my own printing. I had a darkroom partition in the flat we had, and by then...no, it wasn’t in ’37, but two years later, I had met my wife to be at my sister’s. I met her in her darkroom, in my sister’s darkroom. She was changing her skirt. So it was a good beginning, and we liked each other almost immediately. She was Hungarian, but had worked in Vienna at the Montessori school and my sister had a Montessori certificate. She went to a course of mont... Maria Montessori in London, where she must have met her future husband, Alexander Tudor-Hart, who was a doctor. He came to Vienna to study with a famous surgeon who had a new methods of treating fractures. Anyway, they got married and lived in London a few years before I got here.

My animal pictures were liked by Julian Huxley and I became very well acquainted with him and his family, who lived above the zoo offices. And sometime I did special photographs for him, like one night in the blitz, he wanted a pheasant photographed who... which every night had two of his... her offspring under her wings, on either side, and I had to spend a night at the zoo and there happened to be a... biologist called Haldane — Professor Haldane — who was a friend of Huxley’s, and he stayed the night there too and he had a theory — he was a statistician — that few accidents happen on the first floor than in the cellar. So we slept on deck chairs in the zoo, on the first floor.

Born in Austria, Wolfgang Suschitzky (1912-2016) trained as a photographer and became one of the first in his field to take portraits of animals. After coming to England he worked with Paul Rotha as the cameraman on various documentaries and films such as “No Resting Place”, “Ulysses” and “Get Carter”.

Listeners: Misha Donat

Misha Donat is the son of Wolfgang Suschitzky. He has composed music for the theatre and the cinema (including films directed by Lindsay Anderson, and by Albert Finney). For more than 25 years he was a senior music producer for BBC Radio 3, where he planned and produced the prestigious lunchtime concerts at St John’s, Smith Square, at which many of the world’s leading artists appeared on a regular basis, and also instigated a Young Artists’ Forum as a showcase for musicians of the coming generation. As a broadcaster himself, he has given many radio talks. Misha Donat has contributed a large number of programme notes to the Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, South Bank, Aldeburgh Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Brighton Festival and other venues, and he has written CD booklets for such labels as Decca, DG, RCA, Philips and Hyperion. He has been a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine since its inception more than 10 years ago, and has written articles for The London Review of Books, The Guardian, The Musical Times, The Listener, Opera, and other publications. He has taught at the University of California in Los Angeles, and has given lectures and seminars at Vassar College and Bard College in New York State, Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), and in the UK at Durham University, the Barbican Centre, the Royal Festival Hall, and the Norwich Music festival. He is currently working as a producer for the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Tags: Whipsnade Zoo, Zoological Society, Vienna, Montessori education, London, Paul Rotha, Julian Huxley, Maria Montessori, Alexander Tudor-Hart, J B S Haldane

Duration: 4 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2008

Date story went live: 06 August 2009