Photographer Fred Morley staged the famous photo of a milkman walking through the destruction of London after the German blitz during the Second World War.
That’s right – this photo was staged. Morley walked around the rubble of London until he found a group of firefighters trying to put out a fire amidst the fallen buildings, as he wanted that specific scene in the background. Here’s where the story has some variations. Apparently, Morley borrowed a milkman’s outfit and crate of bottles. He then either posed as the milkman or had his assistant pose as the milkman.
While the British government censored images of London’s destruction, it promoted this photo to show the world Britain’s resiliency and a sense of calm.
As writer and photographer Teju Cole once penned: “The facticity of a photograph can conceal the craftiness of its content and selection,” or Bertolt Brecht once wrote in his 1955 book War Primer, “The camera is just as capable of lying as the typewriter.”
World War II was a lesson in propaganda, in Morley’s case spreading awareness through the photographic medium to grab attention.
Marketers can be liars, which in this case proved indispensable to boosting morale and saving lives. Morley’s milkman image worked brilliantly.