In 1981, I started my first job after school as a Trainee Press Photographer at Mercury Press Agency in Liverpool. I’d not bargained for my first week in employment to involve the coverage of some of the worst rioting on mainland Britain.
I’ll always remember the phone ringing late at night after the family had gone to bed. I was told that another photographer would pick me up (I didn’t have a car) and would take me to Toxteth, where there were some sort of disturbances.
The first pictures that I took were of police dragging away an injured colleague as buildings burned around them. It was scary – but exciting for an 18 year old who had dreamt of being a press photographer. It was what I’d wanted to do throughout my adolescence.
My mum and dad were concerned – especially when I didn’t arrive home for another 20 hours (that meant I had worked through the night and had no sleep for 30+ hours). I’d photographed the aftermath of people trying to put their lives back together after the riots.
I was back out in Toxteth the next night – and for many more nights over the next month. I witnessed CS Gas being used to quell a riot on the streets of mainland Britain for the first time; photographed a policeman stabbed in a related demonstration; and recorded a protester run over by a police van and then dragged in to the back of the vehicle with his back broken.
I also photographed “Minister for Merseyside” Michael Heseltine being pelted with food by children. It was a baptism of fire for a young photographer – but remains a Wow experience in my life.
[My sister, Sandra, a skilled sub-editor has kindly taken on the role of editing these “Projects & Tales”. On this piece she commented “Just been reading the Toxteth riots piece and it took me back. I remember you coming home with a huge bruise on your ribs where you’d been hit by a brick – and you begged me not to tell mum and dad.”]
My last “proper job” was in 1983-5. I was a photographer at the Leicester Mercury. It was one of the most enjoyable times of my life. Working within a community, making connections, then gradually gaining trust and respect is a rewarding process.
I lived in a council house on the ring road in Liverpool (Queens Drive) – and had very supportive parents (although I might not have thought so at the time). I went to a Catholic Boys’ Grammar School, St Francis Xavier’s – I and was very religious (up until the moment I was 18 – […]
In 1985, I was a 22-year-old press photographer in a well-paid and rewarding job at the Leicester Mercury. I had excellent colleagues – and a very comfortable life. However, it was not enough for me – and I wanted to work for National Newspapers and create my own business. So I set out to create […]
It’s amazing how easy it is to take and send high-quality photos these days. You can pick up an iPhone, take a snap and with a couple of clicks send the image around the world. It wasn’t always that simple – here’s a tale from 1985 (just over 25 years ago) when taking and transmitting […]
In the late 1980s, there was a transformation in the world of national newspapers. New titles, such as The Independent and Today came in to the market – and Rupert Murdoch fought the battle of Wapping to help rid the industry of some terrible, union backed practices (see “On the Wire – how many men […]