John Gaskell Leake OAM ACS (1929-2009)

Inducted into ACS Hall of Fame 1997

On November 17, 1944 John commenced work as an office boy at Movietone News – Sydney. Then in 1945 and much to his delight, John was promoted to truck assistant alongside fellow assistants, Bede Whiteman, Bob Feeney and Mark McDonald. The cameramen he learnt from at Movietone were Jack Fletcher, Frank McKechnie, Bill Trerise, Eric Bierre, and later on Syd Wood – certainly a great team of tutors.

In 1946 when barely 17 years old, John got his first experience at actual shooting, he was handed an Eyemo 35mm camera by Eric Bierre and told to get good close ups of marching students, plus crowd shots for cut-aways during the Sydney Uni Commem Day march through the city of Sydney. During the march John was plastered with flour bombs by the marching students, a great still photograph of this exists in the ACS archives.

By 1955 John was now considered a top cameraman, so was offered a position in the camera department with the Dept. of Information film unit. Then in 1956 with the coming of television to Australia, John left the DOI to join Supreme Studios in Paddington as their main DOP, filling the position vacated by Ross Wood. Four years later in 1960 he made the decision to go freelance, he did so, and remained freelance until 1968.

In 1968 John and well known TVC and documentary director, Harvey Spencer got together and formed Motion Picture Associates. The company was an immediate success and soon gathered a stable of good clients. However the partnership was short lived and dissolved in 1970 with Harvey departing MPA to freelance as a director, leaving John to take sole control of the company. MPA continued to be very successful right up to the time John closed the company and retired in 1990.

From 1982-1987 John served as the ACS Federal & NSW President, but continued on as the ACS Historian and Hall of Fame Chairman till 2009. John also served for many years as President of ‘The Tusitala Club’ the alias for ‘The Retired Press & Newsreel Photographers Club’.

John was given ACS Accreditation in 1963, made a Life Member in 1988 and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. John was presented with the Order of Australia Medal on January 26, 2010 for service to the Arts as Historian of the Australian Cinematographers Society.

John Leake ACS was a true gentleman, extraordinary cinematographer and mentor to many.