David Thorpe Photography

Professional Pix

Pictures for Money

I was sitting in the office on the 5th floor of the 'Black Lubianka' as Private eye used to have it, in Fleet Street. I was on the staff of the Sunday Express, enormously well paid and....bored.

Life was a procession of 'dolly birds' as fancied by the then editor, John Junor. I'd photograph them in their hot pants and their mini skirts, walking their dogs, calling a cab, anthing that was London life and showed their legs.

Junor was a mean minded old sod. A lover of long lunches himself, he would every now and again come back to the office at 2.55pm to see who was there. Since most of the staff were bored out of their brains and the only part of their day they enjoyed was the Sunday paper's traditional 2 hour lunch, they would try to extend it as close to their editor's normal 4 hour lunch as they could. So he'd get great pleasure from getting back early, catching them out and glowering, threatening, punishing them. I always felt there was something unsavoury about him but just looking at him made you feel creepy. Such are our 'betters'.

But to the point. I was about to go out for lunch when the office shook and trembled and a 'whooomph' noise filled my ears. Looking out the window, there was a dust cloud hovering over Old Bailey and obscuring St Pauls. Fleet street, outside, stopped. I grabbed my camera bag and ran down the steps from 5th to ground floor and raced up Ludgate Hill to Old Bailey.

It was a scene of carnage, bloodied, dazed people, wandering. Crying. Screams. Chaos. I was a news man. I started taking pictures. At one point, with my excellent training from evening newspapers, i automatically thought in terms of coverage. Wide, medium, close. Dive in, capture the detail, the injured, the distressed, the ambulance men, the firemen, the police. Move out, further away. Frame the fire engines, the ambulances, the rescue operation. Go further, capture the scene overall. I climbed an office building staircase in Old Bailey. It was dangerous from the blast. Was it safe? Would it collapse? Was that why I had to sidestep police trying to block entrance to it? From the top, I could see the scene. The milling crowd of emergency workers and lawyers and passers by and victims.

The pix were no good to a Sunday paper, so I took them downstairs to the Daily Express, the sister paper.

I later got a call from the then picture editor, Ron Morgans. "Well done, mate, you've scooped the pool!" And there was my pic, the depth of the front page. Ron paid me a nice £250 for the pic. A decent little sum in those days, maybe £2,500 in todays value. But it wasn't the money....look at that front page!