History of the collection

Alec Wainman (1913-1989) was born in Britain and studied at Oxford. Pursuing his dream of a free and democratic Spain, Wainman chose to defend liberty by serving as a humanitarian volunteer and was an ambulance driver and later an interpreter and press officer in the Spanish Civil War. During and after the Second World War, he was a British Army intelligence officer in Italy and Austria. He emigrated to Canada in 1947 and, having studied languages at Oxford, was appointed Professor of Slavic Languages ​​at the University of British Columbia, where he taught until his retirement. His passions were languages, the preservation of culture, photography and travel. The last language he taught his son was Catalan.

In 1975, a London-based publisher contacted Wainman with a view to publishing his collection of photographs, his war correspondence and his diary. Wainman sent him all his material but, after many financial difficulties, the publishing house went into liquidation. Wainman’s material was never published and was believed to be lost. A further factor that contributed to the loss was that the publisher developed Alzheimer’s. As a consequence, Wainman, who suffered the same disease, struggling against it from 1981 till his death in 1989, never saw his collection again. It was his son, John Alexander Wainman (who uses the pen name Serge Alternês) who, after searching for 40 long years, had the good fortune by chance to contact Jeanne Griffiths, the person who would help him see his dream come to fruition. In 2005, Griffiths, the picture editor of Time-Life, had rescued the suitcase containing Alec Wainman’s photographic collection from the home of the then recently deceased Soho publisher.

The last photo of Alec Wainman in the Spanish Republic before his forced return to England for having contracted hepatitis. August 1938.

© The Estate of Alexander Wheeler Wainman, Serge Alternês (John Alexander Wainman)