Monday, 2 December 2013

Life: My late brother Viv.

Being 20 years younger than Viv... I have to really think about my earliest memories of brother Viv. But then I remember his & Pam’s wedding. And then it comes back to me...I wanted to cut the wedding cake.... a reasonable request for a 3 year old. Well Pam let me... and Viv took pictures of me and his new bride cutting their wedding cake! I still have those pictures!

Me cutting the wedding cake with Pam.

My next memories of Viv when I was about 5 are of this man in a black suit carrying a gadget bag of cameras over his shoulder as he rushed into and out of our home.

And that was our brother Viv, armed with a bag of cameras... the photographer who told stories with his incredible pictures. He was also a dreamer. He dreamed of going a-droving down the Cooper where the Western drovers go. He had a romantic view of the bush like Banjo!

That was the dream.. the reality was that he was a photographer.

A bloody good one too!

And I was a very lucky kid brother whom Viv taught to take photographs. And I can tell you that I had a very gifted photographer as a teacher. Viv’s talent with a camera was enormous. 

Photographers describe the gifted ones in their midst as the the ones who can see the light. 

And boy, could Viv see the light. 

And I say that not just as his brother, but as a professional photographer myself.

And today I would like to give you a little look into what that world of his was.

He started at the Sunday Truth at 14 as a copy boy.. a gofer.. but people like the late Eric Donelly (himself a very talented photographer) saw Viv’s potential and soon he was a cadet photographer. Learning to handle cameras like the 5 x 4 Speed graphic. These were physically big cameras that gave you one shot.. and then you needed to reload.

When the Queen made her first visit to Australia; Viv was there at City Hall. The now long gone stairs to city hall were roped off to allow the Queen to descend them to her waiting car. Well I was told by our mother that Viv ducked under the rope.. ran to the Queen and dropped to one knee..... “Smile please maam” Said Viv. He had one shot, the flash bulb fired  and he knew he had a keeper as the QLD Police dragged him back to the barriers.

I guess that was Viv.. pushing the barriers photographically speaking. Getting lost while helping to find a lost plane near Tenterfield, you can ask Max for the details on that! Covering New Years eve riots on the Gold Coast where he managed to get arrested.. more than once. Being questioned by the special branch who wanted to know how Viv found out where the Communist Party had their headquarters. (He rang them and asked!) It is funny that Viv was working for the Truth, because he was always looking for the truth. Perhaps he should have been a philosopher. Actually much later in life he read philosophy at UQ when he gained a Bachelor of Arts. Full credit to him.

And you always knew when it was a quiet news Saturday at the Truth.. Viv would turn up and invent some photo of me to put on the front page of the truth. I was a regular from a baby to around the age of 10 in my Scout uniform.

A lot of photography involves technical challenges as well as a whole lot of creativity. This was where he amazed me. Viv had the gift of being able to seamlessly merge these two disciplines together in a heart beat. Result? An award winning photo!
In 1967 he was named as one of the 10 best press photographers, not in Queensland, not even in Australia, but in the entire world.

When his children, Trilby and Shaun were young pups he would photograph them... it used to amaze me how he could literally conjure up creative images of them both in seconds. He knew the angles.. and.. he could see the light.

His pictures evoked feelings. 

Once he covered a house burning down.. the paper published his pictures of the firemen doing their job of controlling the blaze. But for Viv, the real story was the incredible sadness on the faces of the couple who watched as they lost everything in the fire. He discreetly captured those sad looks.. but they never made the paper.

During the 60s he wanted to go to Vietnam and document the war like Tim Page.  Again wanting to report the truth as only a photo journalist can. But Tim Page was single.. Viv had responsibilities of a young family at home, so he stayed put. But he did photograph the anti vietnam war demonstrations here in Brisbane.

And to finish I would like to tell you of one such demonstration. At 16 a couple of mates and I headed off from high school to join in the march. 

After all we were the Children of the Revolution, the generation who were going to change the world.

Well.. it got a bit hectic in there, the coppers were removing there ID badges and giving the students a good flogging... my mate said to me... “There’s a plain clothes cop coming for you”. I turned to head in the other direction when a hand grabbed me by the arm. I turned and it was Viv. A Nikon F in one hand and now me in the other.

Why aren’t you at school? Does mum know you’re here?

I was too dumbfounded to answer.

He dragged me to the footpath.. in all of the noise he asked if I had any money, I don’t remember answering him... then put his hand in his pocket and gave me a handful of change. “Get out of this madness, get on a train & go home.”

What a great brother you were Viv... you taught me how to create pictures, how to see the light, how to handle and shoot firearms with that amazing Hornet, how to drive at 13 on the back roads of Bribie Island! You let me invade your property with 50 Escorts every time we had a car rally out your way.. which was often!

But best of all.... you didn’t tell mum you found me at a demonstration instead of being at school all those years ago.

Viv's Selfie in the mirror with his first camera!

Viv the ADV rider with cousin Graham Taylor's Ariel.

A young me with Whiskers.. front page in the Sunday Truth.