Fitzgerald Photographic Collection

The Fitzgerald collection consists of over 200 glass plate negatives dating from the 1930s to 1960s. The majority of the images cover the war period in Plymouth and the post-war reconstruction work. The collection was acquired with the help of the V&A Purchase Grant fund.

About the photographer

A boy with a camera on tripod

Dermot Patrick Fitzgerald – known as ‘Fitz’ came from an Irish family, born and raised in North London. For as long as he could remember Fitz wanted to be a photographer. His father was an artist and cartoonist and one of his claims to fame was making sketches whilst in the trenches during the Great War. He then flew them back to London using his own homing pigeons.

Fitz began his working life in Fleet Street, as a copy boy, before getting his first work as a photographer. He came to Plymouth in the early 1930s on an assignment for one of the Fleet Street papers. Setting up business as a freelance Press Photographer, he worked for nearly all of the national newspapers. He also did a lot of work for the Western Morning News, Western Evening Herald and for the Western Independent.

Second World War and the Blitz

Photograph showing blitz damage in a city centreBecause he suffered from a degree of deafness Fitz was excused military service. Consequently he was on hand to become one of the photographic chroniclers of the Plymouth Blitz and its aftermath. He was often amongst the first on the scene after an air raid and created a photographic record of the effect of bombing on the city and its people. He was on hand to record visits to Plymouth by dignatories including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his wife among others.

While the war was still on Fitz began his collaboration with the journalist Pat Twyford, preparing the book ‘It Came to Our Door’. This story of Plymouth in the Blitz has become one of the definitive accounts of this historic period.

In the immediate post-war years Fitz took enormous pride in the rebuilding of Plymouth, recording the realisation of the Plan for Plymouth initiated in 1943. With his stepson Don Dalziel he set up his own commercial photographic business.

Post War

A man using a film cameraAs a member of the Plymouth Aero Club, Fitz frequently took to the air to record the reconstruction work. This included the laying out of Royal Parade, Armada Way, New George Street and Cornwall Street in the city centre, and the building of new housing estates north of the city, at St. Budeaux, Whitleigh, Southway, Estover and Crownhill.

In the 1950s he was the first photographer in Plymouth to have a wire machine whereby photographs could be transmitted over the telephone to newspaper offices in Fleet Street. He became a news cameraman for Westward Television and through them for ITN, enjoying the new challenges of taking moving pictures.