Calling all the shots: three decades on the frontline of photography

The Observer picture editor reflects on the evolution of photojournalism as he bows out after nearly 30 years

Jane Bown looking at a contact sheet by the lightbox, using her monocle eyeglass. Motorcycle couriers flirting with picture researchers. Reporters massaging the egos of alpha-male photographers, vying to become the next Don McCullin, the great photojournalist whose career began here. Men in shabby suits from now-defunct picture agencies, cigarette in hand as they hawked photo-essays from battered suitcases. The picture librarian ferrying files of black and white prints to the man who was at the centre of everything, the revered picture editor, Tony McGrath.