As we approach the Conservative Party Conference and the midpoint of the Party Conference Season, Mike Conway regales us with a tale of how it used to be for the ‘Paps’ outside N0. 10. There are those of my age who have witnessed change and one of the biggest transformations witnessed in Fleet Street over the past 55 years is what is permissible in Downing Street.
In the earlier years press photographers were allowed to wait patiently either side of the doors of 10 or 11 for the incumbent occupant to emerge.
Legend has it that during this often long wait one representative of the camera holding fraternity would sell homemade ties from a specially redesigned camera bag. It’s more than just legend – I bought one although I must admit I never found a shirt or jacket suitable to wear with one.
They were dubbed kipper ties and yes you certainly felt like you had been ‘done like a kipper’ after buying one. I am reliably informed that they were produced from throwaway curtains! I can certainly believe it. You would be hard pressed to find curtains like it today!
But to return to our original theme I doubt that more than twenty gathered outside the Premier’s residence compared to present day figures of around 200.
Photographers in those days were working shoulder to shoulder as illustrated in the accompanying image from 1970. Let’s make some technical comparisons.
Seen here is Roger Jackson (extreme left) then of picture agency Central Press Photos who was equipped with a 35mm camera body and a 28 mm lens. Hanging from his neck is a standard Rollie which given the proximity of the subject was redundant. Nevertheless, it remained the favoured choice of snappers. Some used a Rollie with 85mm lens.
Fast forward to today and Fleet Streets finest are generally using a 300mm lens from across the road, and even more glass from the alternative position at the end of the street.
Back to the image: Just to the right of ‘Jacko’ was Roger Taylor of neighbouring photo news agency, Sport and General (both companies had offices in Gough Square just off Fleet Street) who had no ‘visual’ (to use present day terminology) but had high hopes his distance setting paid off – it usually did.
Above him is Johnny (the ladder man) Eggitt of United Press International. The ‘White Tornado’ as he was dubbed always believed that a ‘bit of elevation’ will get you out of trouble and It invariably did!!
Ps: if anyone can get a warrant to inspect the ‘White Tornados’ wardrobe the mystery tie man could be finally exposed.