This is the story of my second life. Why my second life? Because for thousands of others out there who have, or are experiencing a first life similar to mine i.e. war, devastation, family violence, (my father was a violent alcoholic eventually being committed to a Mental Hospital.) I want to focus on the positives of life that are there!!, but need to be made to happen!!. I want to try to give hope to thousands that just need that little spark to give them that sense of purpose for the future. I left secondary modern school with no qualifications, but in no way found this a disadvantage. Despite my east end background, at no time did I ever experience class distinction. My career as a photographer began in Fleet Street as a messenger boy in 1953 at the age of 15, with the London News Agency Photos Ltd. After three months I progressed to the darkrooms until I was 19, then I was conscripted to the Royal Air Force for National Service for two years. I returned to London News agency as a junior photographer. During my time in Fleet Street I photographed all the Royal family including Princess Margaret on her wedding day. I photographed President Kennedy and his wife with Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace. I’ve photographed Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Yuri Gagarin the first Russian spaceman, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Michael Cain, The Beatles, and many other dignitaries. I have made aII this sound fairly routine, but it was far from it. I was only able to become a photographer through sheer grit and determination. I have during my professional career been awarded Fellowships in the Royal photographic Society, The British Institute of Professional Photography the Master Photographers Association and the Institute of Directors. I have won several top awards (Photographer of the Year) I have lectured both nationally and internationally. I devised a method of lighting when traveling internationally that was unique. I am certain that in the 60 years that I have been in professional photography, no other photographer has been commissioned to visit 50 countries including Communist Russia, Communist China. I was the first Western photographer allowed in the Kremlin. I have been personally introduced to Her Majesty The Queen. I was commissioned to photograph Dame Margaret Thatcher at Downing Street. I have a photograph of us chatting.
Why am I writing it? Because I have taken stunning! Sometimes controversial award winning photographs. Because my two live’s have been unique. I have experienced both ends of the social and political spectrum first hand!
From being driven into The Kremlin by the KGB, to photographing Her Majesty The Queen with President Kennedy at Buckingham Palace. Being driven from JFK airport over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan in a Rolls Royce. Entering 10 Downing Street to photograph Prime Minister Dame Margaret Thatcher and each of those times thinking “If they could see me now” finding it hard to believe that it was happening. And it all began with the slummy existence of 684 Old Ford Road Bow E3.
I was seven when the war ended, with vivid memories of air raid sirens, the damp earth smell of the dark dug-out air raid shelter in the back yard, the candle being lit, that prevails to this day.
The never ending bombing raids that shook and devastated the earth around us, the tears and resolute spirit of the east enders. And then..... peace, sleeping through the night, looking forward to the next day, rebuilding lives and homes. For five years this ration book era was a welcome relief for society. But for my mother my sister and myself, a different personal, emotional, impending hell was to rule our lives for the next three years. My father was to succumb to the ways of a violent alcoholic, manic ravings, vomiting tirades, physical violence. BUT WE SURVIVED!!................. TO A LIFE WORTHWHILE!!
THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS………..ONLY CHALLENGES!!!