When you hear of the death of someone who has been in the public eye it is rarely anything other than sad. When it was someone that you spent some time photographing then it’s that little bit sadder. Neil Innes, Nicholas Parsons and Terry Jones are all recent examples that come directly to mind.
I know that many of my friends and colleagues also photographed Terry Jones (one of the members of the Monty Python team for those trying to work out who he was) and for me he was funny, charming and very keen to be part of the process of being photographed. As a massive Python fan it was a privilege to meet him.
When this happens we often dig out the pictures, post them on our social media and talk about the experience of meeting and photographing them. It is amazing how much of an impression some people make on you and I find it equally surprising that some assignments appear to be all but missing from my memory. The truly sad thing about my Terry Jones pictures is that I don’t have them. They, themselves, are missing. The portraits were shot at the end of the film part of my career and I don’t have the scans, the negatives or any prints. All I potentially have is one frame printed in a newspaper which may or may not be in a cabinet in my loft.
I checked my diary because, at first, I could believe that it was that long ago but the yellowing Filofax pages confirmed that it was April 1997. The odd thing is that my archive shows that I photographed him again in March 2008 at an event where he was wearing his academic hat and, according to my caption notes, talking with great knowledge and even greater enthusiasm about Chaucer and that I couldn’t remember being there – which is doubly odd because I’m quite keen on The Canterbury Tales. Now that I’ve found the images some very slight memories are coming back to me but nowhere near as clear as those from photographing him at his home so many years before.
So I guess that having backed up digital files really does help. Not just the images but the notes that I made, the diary entries and the captions attached to those files too. I’ve been through the pictures and my memory has been jogged a little. One of the pictures even featured on my website at the time but I had actually forgotten that Terry Jones was the subject of the picture!
I don’t have anything at all from hundreds of jobs between 1987 and 1990 and then from 1995 and 1998. The negatives and the scans were all carefully stored and labelled but that didn’t stop an office removals person losing them by accident or deliberately throwing them away. It really is heartbreaking to know that so much of my work no longer exists. I know that it’s a combination of my own stupidity and naivety but I’d rather blame someone else.