King Charles III’s coronation marked the first crowning of a British monarch since the invention of digital cameras — so how did modern photographers go about capturing the sacred moment?
PA Media, formerly the Press Association, is the U.K.’s answer to AP and PetaPixel caught up with one of their photographers, Aaron Chown, to find out how he and his colleagues captured Charles’s ascent to the throne.
The coronation took place in Westminster Abbey in London where extensive rehearsals happened long before the May 6 date so that everyone and everything knew their place and role.
“In 1953, 5×4 inch dark slides were used to capture Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation,” remarks Chown.
“In 2023, for King Charles III’s coronation, we had 7 cameras using a mixture of the kit to cover history from inside Westminster Abbey.
“[We had] 12 days of prep with 7 remotely operated cameras and 4 photographers operating them to capture the scenes inside the Abbey and the coronation moment of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.”
Chown, along with his fellow PA photographers — Victoria Jones, Jonathan Brady, and Yui Mok — used an array of camera gear with perhaps the most important being the remote operating system.
“A vast mixture of camera kit was used from Sony A1’s using zoom lenses such as the PZ 28-135mm to fixed lenses such as a 24mm prime — all operated using Sony’s Laptop Remote Camera tool,” says Chown.
“On Saturday, the day of the coronation and the culmination of our efforts, we arrived at 06:00 with many hours to wait and still a few tense moments ahead. Especially waking the laptops and seeing the live feed come through from each camera.
“The anticipation of everything coming together was the most nerve-racking part of the job, but we were prepared.”
Chown, whose photos regularly grace national and international publications, has an appreciation for the historic moment he was covering.
“Westminster Abbey has been the setting for every Coronation since 1066 and the then Prince Charles was there to witness his mother’s coronation as Sovereign in the 1950s,” he says.
“This time, King Charles III not only had the Prince of Wales, Prince William present and be part of the ceremony. King Charles III’s grandson Prince George was also present and involved in the ceremony carrying King Charles III’s robes.”
PA Media’s photos from the event were beamed around the world almost instantaneously. American media such as Time magazine ran the team’s photos on its front cover.
— TIME (@TIME) May 6, 2023
“Although it is down to the picture editors of the newspapers and magazines which images they use, we provided speedy and efficient images, all captioned and edited by the picture editors in the Press Association office,” adds Chown.
“Confirmation of PA’s picture usage was demonstrated by usages in all national newspapers the day after and following days.”
After Chown and his colleagues had photographed the sacral crowning, photographer Hugo Burnand had the daunting task of capturing the official coronation portraits.
Image credits: All photos by PA Media.