In 1943, at the age of 15, John Chillingworth started his career at Hulton Press via the traditional Fleet Street 'messenger boy' route. Within months, with older employees being conscripted into the army, he advanced to working on the organisation's famous weekly Picture Post, making tea and trimming prints in the darkroom.
Chillingworth learnt many of his photographic skills - 'the individual narrative quality of picture stories' in particular - from the magazine's stalwarts, including Bert Hardy, Felix Man, and Leonard McCombe. He recalled: 'Many of their images, accepted today as masterpieces of photographic art, I first saw at the negative processing stage, as I inspected their films under the dank, dark green of a panchromatic safelight.' Above all, he credited his education to Kurt Hutton, describing the veteran photographer as his mentor.
Eventually called up himself, Chillingworth spent his war years as a photographer with the Royal Engineers. With peace declared, he returned to London determined to escape the darkroom and establish himself as a professional photographer. He subsequently became the youngest member of Picture Post's photographic staff and produced around 400 picture stories during his time with the magazine, staying with it until it ceased publication in 1957. He later wrote that 'to be there was to be a member of a talented, tempestuous family'.