The Student Photographer
Although he's earned his living in publishing and broadcasting Roger George Clark once considered photography as a career. 'Until I got into the BBC,' he says, 'I considered becoming a full-time photographer. When young broadcasting seemed out of reach so I turned to photography instead.
'As a teenager I experimented with a box-camera, but this produced awful results. My pictures were fuzzy and badly exposed and the prints contained no details in the shadows or highlights. So I borrowed a handful of books from the local library and taught myself.
'During my last couple of years at Emanuel school I bought an adjustable camera for £5 in a sale at Boots the Chemist - a folding Kodak with an f 4.5 lens.
'I took pictures in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions - rain, hailstorms, snow, overcast days and into the sun. I photographed Emanuel's Ist VIII pacing the Oxford and Cambridge crews on the River Thames (my first action pictures), school games, and cadet life in army training camps. Before I left Emanuel I bought a second-hand Leica. This 30-year-old camera produced more subtle results and was good at capturing action.
'One I snapped the trainspotters who gathered at the end of the school drive (left). The pictures recalled the kind of work I'd seen in the illustrated magazine Picture Post. They anticipate the photos I was going to take years later. As I left the school magazine, the Portcullis, printed my first published photos and this encouraged me to go on taking pictures.
'When people ask me who was the first major celebrity I photographed I jokingly reply, "The Queen". I never met her, of course. But from early childhood I was intrigued by royalty. My grandma used to take me up to the Mall to watch the royal processions. As a student I stood in the crowds and photographed the Queen going by at Trooping the Colour (left) and the State Opening of Parliament. It was difficult work. Soldiers and policemen lined up in front of you. Crowds jostled your elbows. You had only two chances - when the Queen appeared and when she rode back home to Buckingham Palace. Royal processions may appear to move slowly, but in reality they move quite fast. To take pictures better than the average tourist snapshots was a challenge.
'For some years I tried my hand at traditional pictorial work - a form of photography that's now despised. I sought out beautiful subjects - Kew Gardens, old cottages - calendar-type views. While a schoolboy on holiday I took one of my first against-the-light shots of waves crashing on a beach in Bournemouth (left). I poured over magazines such as Country Life and Batsford books which presented a traditional view of Britain.
'A handful of my pictures appeared in small magazines. I freelanced for a local newspaper in Richmond. The architectural photographer Eric de Maré wrote to me after seeing a couple of my photos in Country Life. He wanted to reproduce the pictures in two of his books. I received just enough encouragement to persuade me to continue taking pictures, but not enough to earn a living. I had to pay the rent. So I went into publishing. I would have to confine photography to my spare time. Photographic knowledge, however, proved a lifeline - the golden thread that led me into exciting worlds. A few years later it led me to The Observer Colour Magazine and eventually broadcasting and the BBC. In the meantime, photography got me my first job.'