David Thorpe Photography

Professional Pix

Pictures for Money

Within a few weeks of joining the London Evening News I was sent to Londonderry where the civil rights movement had exploded again into violence. This was exactly the reason I wanted to work on Fleet Street, the possibility of covering assignments of national interest. No more golden weddings, fetes and flower shows.

The situation in Derry was dire. Yelling protestors were throwing petrol bombs and stones, the sound of gunfire was being heard. The B Specials with riot shields were trying to keep them at bay (and doing a bit of violence of their own). I took this shot from the police lines. After I'd wired this stuff back to the office, I went back to the fray but this time to photograph the Catholic side making petrol bombs and arming themselves with stones. As I made my way back to the wire point to ping the stuff back to the office, three men came across the road and stopped me. "You're fucking police", one of them said. I told them I was a photographer for the LEN. "No, you're fucking not", another one said, "we saw you in your stripey coat with the B Specials this morning" I tried to explain and could have kicked myself for wearing such a distinctive raincoat.

They kept me where I was while they discussed where they were going to take me. It was the first time I'd ever felt fully justifiable fear, the fear that comes when you have no idea what is going to happen to you, only that it will not be good. The kind of fear that makes you feel calm but numb, thinking banal thoughts, that my pictures won't get back to the office, how would I phone my wife that evening? Time starts to tun slowly...then a voice from across the road. I don't know what was said or who it was - how could I? But they simply lost interest in me and walked away. I was so frightened, I didn't even feel relieved. I just walked to the wire point in the phone exchange and said nothing.

That night I woke, again and again, sweating.