Born Hans Gohler in 1909, John Gay was a German émigré who came to England in 1935. He served in the Pioneer Corps during the Second World War.
From the late 1940s onwards, Gay established himself as a leading photographer, specialising in everyday scenes of ordinary people and rural and urban landscapes. He settled in Highgate with his wife Marie Arnheim and formed a strong attachment to the area, photographing it often. In 1967, he contributed to Prospect of Highgate and Hampstead and, in 1984, he provided photographs for Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla.
Gay died in 1999 and his archive of over 40,000 photographs was bequeathed to English Heritage’s National Monuments Record.