J Malan Heslop: Mormon Photojournalist

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J Malan Heslop Mormon Photojournalist
Courtesy Deseret News

J Malan Heslop (always known as J) was a photographer, writer, and editor. He was an Army combat photographer in Europe during World War II and later joined the photography staff at the Deseret News.

Heslop was born on June 18, 1923, in Taylor, Utah, and grew up on a farm in West Weber, Utah. His father, Jesse, was an avid photographer and taught him to take photographs and develop prints. During school at Weber High, he joined the photography club and took photos for the yearbook. He also acquired equipment and set up a darkroom. After he graduated from high school in May 1941, he enrolled at Weber College in Ogden, Utah, and applied for jobs as a photographer at the Ogden Standard Examiner and the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. By October 1941 he was asked by the Examiner to fill the vacancy created when their previous photographer left for the army. His first photographic breakthrough came in a month later when he covered a fire at the airport, which made the front page of the Examiner.

In September 1942, he registered to study photography at Los Angeles City College. In October 1942 he enlisted in the Army Reserve Corps and by early November he was studying at Paramount Studios as a part of the Signal Corps Photographers School. By the following April, he was called to active duty and on September 3, 1943, the 167th Signal Photographic Company was activated at Camp Crowder, Missouri. By December he was at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, where he received the rank of Technician 5th grade, T/5, the equivalent of a corporal.

Heslop married Fae Stokes on May 1, 1944, and was shipped to Europe on July 23. From September to May, he served in Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, and Germany. He photographed the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) activities. He documented Charles DeGaulle and Winston Churchill in Paris and portions of the last German offensive (the Battle of the Bulge). He also photographed the psychological warfare tactics of the 2nd Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company in Luxembourg; the 9th Armored Division west of the Rhine River; the suicide of the mayor of Leipzig with his wife and daughter and the chief of police; the ruins of Eschweiler, Durwiss, Aachen, and Naumberg; the birthplace of Hitler (Braunau, Austria); Prisoner of War camps; the surrender of German soldiers; and refugees and displaced persons in horse-drawn carts and on foot carrying their few belongings. He was among the first American photographers to document evidence of Nazi crimes and the plight of surviving prisoners at Ebensee, Austria, part of the Mauthausen concentration camp at the time of the camp’s liberation.[1]. He was released on November 8, 1945.

After returning home, he earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the Utah State Agricultural College. He accepted an offer by the Deseret News, where he worked for forty years as chief photographer (20 years), Church News editor (8 years), and managing editor (10 years). In 1972 the Deseret News rewarded him its first-ever “Outstanding Performance Award.” During those years he made five trips to Israel and the Middle East. He retired in 1988.

He wrote five books: Joseph Fielding Smith: A Prophet Among the People (1971), From the Shadow of Death: Stories of POWs (1973, with Dell Van Orden), How to Write Your Personal History (1976, with Dell Van Orden), How to Make Your Book of Remembrance (1977), How to Compile Your Family History (1978, with Dell Van Orden). With his wife he wrote an autobiography Doubletree Adventure: Autobiography of J Malan and Eleanor Fae Stokes Heslop.

Heslop and his wife were the parents of five children. During his career, he devoted two years to preside over the Chicago North Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he was a member.

Heslop died on July 29, 2011. Over 50,000 of his photographs are housed at Brigham Young University in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Department of the Harold B. Lee Library.