Press pho­tog­ra­pher Mike Maloney talks about his amaz­ing ca­reer

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Born and raised in Lin­coln, Mike Maloney says his love of pho­tog­ra­phy be­gan when he re­ceived a Ko­dak 127 cam­era from his par­ents for his 10th

birth­day. In his teens he went to work as a tea boy for The Lin­colnshire Chron­i­cle, but it wasn’t long be­fore his en­thu­si­asm for pho­tog­ra­phy gained him more at­ten­tion than his tea-making…

So how did the tea boy be­come a pho­tog­ra­pher?

The Head of Ad­ver­tis­ing at The Chron­i­cle said, “I see

some­thing very good in you. I think you’d be very good in ad­ver­tis­ing.” So I went home and told mum and dad. Dad said, “No, no, none of that non­sense. You want an ap­pren­tice­ship,” be­cause that was the logic in the 1960s. So I went into the print side as a com­pos­i­tor, a lino­type op­er­a­tor, which was very for­tu­itous, be­cause I was still tak­ing pic­tures at the same time. I was then able to go to an ed­i­tor and say, “Look at th­ese pho­to­graphs, what do you think of them?” I learnt very quickly, to the ex­tent that in the end they were com­mis­sion­ing me to take ma­jor pic­tures, in­stead of their own staff pho­tog­ra­phers. What was your first proper pho­tog­ra­phy job for The Lin­colnshire Chron­i­cle? It was a com­mis­sion in 1967 to take pic­tures of the Boy Scouts’ pa­rade at Lin­coln Cathe­dral, and I was paid ten shillings and six­pence for it! It was used as a big pic­ture, four col­umns by eight inches. Was that your mind made up then, that you were go­ing to be a pho­tog­ra­pher? Ab­so­lutely, yes, be­cause I loved it. I loved the whole busi­ness about it.

How long did you re­main at

The Chron­i­cle? Well, the ed­i­tor, who loved my work and was com­mis­sion­ing me, got into trou­ble with the unions, be­cause I wasn’t NUJ (Na­tional Union of Jour­nal­ists). I was NGA (Na­tional Graph­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion). To cut a long story short, I left The Chron­i­cle and joined a mag­a­zine that was run by the ed­i­tor of The Chron­i­cle af­ter he left. It was called Lin­colnshire Pride. It was a glossy monthly. So I joined them, but it all went pear-shaped be­cause the guy who put the money in pulled the money out again. I then asked the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of The

Chron­i­cle if I could get a job on the staff as a pho­tog­ra­pher. He said: “We don’t think you’re up to it, son.” So I left Lin­coln in 1971, went to Lon­don and joined The Evening News. What was your in­tro­duc­tion to roy­alty? That’s a good ques­tion. I worked on The Evening News as a ju­nior pho­tog­ra­pher, free­lance. In those days I used to wear bow ties. On this par­tic­u­lar morn­ing there was a staff pho­tog­ra­pher called Ken Towner in the of­fice. The pa­per’s ed­i­tor came in, a won­der­ful guy called Don Bodie. He said to the pic­ture ed­i­tor, “We’ve got the rota for the Queen to­day at the Palace where she is pre­sent­ing awards to the brave po­lice­man who pre­vented Princess Anne from be­ing shot.” It was the man who jumped out onto The Mall in front of Princess Anne when she was in a car and started shoot­ing. James Bee­ton was the of­fi­cer. The ed­i­tor said: “Who are you send­ing?” The pic­ture ed­i­tor said, “Well, I was go­ing to send Ken Towner.” The ed­i­tor looked at Ken Towner, who was in jeans and an open-necked shirt, and said: “You’re not send­ing him. Who’s that guy, smartly dressed with the bow tie? Send him!”

So a bow tie got you to the Palace. What hap­pened af­ter that? I went down into the Queen’s lounge where the pre­sen­ta­tion was tak­ing place. James Bee­ton was there with his wife and chil­dren, and his lit­tle girl puts her hand up and says, “Ex­cuse me Your Majesty.” Now, you’re not sup­posed to ask the Queen ques­tions, and she rocked. I was shoot­ing with a Rollei­flex and got one frame where I have cap­tured the Queen rock­ing, with just the light from the win­dow. A crack­ing shot. I took it back, and from the re­ac­tion, you’d have thought I’d won the Pools. The ed­i­tor came out: “What a bril­liant pic­ture, what a shame we

can’t have it just to our­selves!” The

Evening News was part of The Daily Mail and they ran it as a spread. It won my first in­ter­na­tional award, which was third place in the World Press Photo in Am­s­ter­dam. That was my very first royal pho­to­graph. Since then, many more awards have come your way. What were the main changes you no­ticed com­ing from a lo­cal pa­per to a Fleet Street pa­per? It was a to­tally dif­fer­ent world. I loved life in Lin­coln, and I was tak­ing pic­tures I really en­joyed. I never wanted to leave, but when I was told I couldn’t join

The Chron­i­cle, there weren’t any open­ings. I had no al­ter­na­tive other than to move to Lon­don, which was a big step for a provin­cial boy. But as soon as I got into the show­biz, I loved it. It was all cham­pagne and caviar in those days. What was the kit you were us­ing back then? When I started at The Evening

News, the guys were still us­ing plate cam­eras. This was 1971, and at this time the plate cam­eras were go­ing out and the Rollei­flexes and Mamiyas were com­ing in. If you were really top notch, you had a Nikon F, but in those days there was a vast dif­fer­ence be­tween a 2¼-inch neg­a­tive and a 35mm one.

I was known for my qual­ity, so for a pre­sen­ta­tion at Buck­ing­ham Palace or Num­ber 10 I would al­ways bring a Rollei and a flash. Pho­to­jour­nal­ism would re­quire the Nikon F, so you would pre­or­dain the way you were go­ing to op­er­ate ac­cord­ing to the given job. How long was it be­fore ev­ery­one was us­ing 35mm? I would say two years. It was an amaz­ing trans­for­ma­tion. The old boys were still with 5x4, a lot had Rolleis, and they used to say to me when I was off to Lon­don, “Lis­ten, son, you can op­er­ate your first year at Fleet Street with a Rollei­flex, it will cover ev­ery­thing.” I used to do sport with it. You didn’t have mo­tor drives in the early 1970s, they came in about 1974, but by 1975 ev­ery­one was shoot­ing 35mm. What other Nikon cam­eras did you work with? Well, I did the whole spec­trum of Nikon. The evo­lu­tion of Nikon was amaz­ing, be­cause I went from the Nikon F to the Nikko­r­mat, which was a great cam­era. The Nikon F

As soon as I got into the show­biz, I loved it. It was all cham­pagne and caviar in those days

Mike Maloney Press pho­tog­ra­pher

There was just some­thing about the Nikon F and the 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor and the 35mm f/2 that was spe­cial

Mike Maloney Press pho­tog­ra­pher

was al­ways the work­horse cam­era, though. You could drop it, bounce it. I re­mem­ber be­ing in Belfast with mine, div­ing to the ground to avoid a sniper’s bul­let – smashed the head, made a big in­den­ta­tion in the pen­taprism. I looked through it and it’d gone all crazy paving, but it still took great pic­tures. Dur­ing your film days what was your favourite Nikon? The Nikon F, with­out a doubt. The Nikon F fit­ted into my hand like a glove. I still have my Fs. I’ve got three. It was a fu­tur­is­tic cam­era that pro­duced great re­sults. There was just some­thing about the F and the 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor and the 35mm f/2 that was spe­cial. What would you choose as your desert is­land lens? I’d choose the 300mm f/2.8. It would be fol­lowed closely by a 50mm f/1.4, but the 300mm f/2.8 was ground­break­ing. On royal as­sign­ments, it was a take-any­where lens. It was a mas­sive piece of glass. It was so sharp. I think it came out in the 1980s, but the fact you could use 300mm at f/2.8 meant the bokeh was sen­sa­tional. Why did the 300mm help you so much for royal as­sign­ments? Well, in­vari­ably for royal as­sign­ments you’re not close to a mem­ber of the royal fam­ily, you’re stand­ing back. This was long be­fore 600mm lenses. If I wanted to do an ex­pres­sion shot in the early days, a 100mm wouldn’t cut the mus­tard, but a 300mm would, so you could still get the ex­pres­sion, and be­cause the op­tics were so great it was pin sharp. I used to like work­ing at f/4. Let’s fast for­ward: when did you first work dig­i­tally? I had the very first dig­i­tal cam­era at

The Daily Mir­ror. Nikon were in bed with Ko­dak at that time and it was one megapixel and it cost a for­tune, some­thing like £23,000! It was like the early mo­bile phones, with one big heavy mas­sive bat­tery with the phone on top. But look at the cam­eras now, which I love. I col­lect them all, I must have about a hun­dred cam­eras.

Which is your favourite Nikon cam­era now? My favourite cam­era is the new Nikon Coolpix 900. I tested it for Nikon and said, “I’ve got the per­fect op­er­a­tion for it, I’m go­ing to In­dia for six weeks and I’ll be pho­tograph­ing the Ben­gal tigers in Ran­thamb­hore, and I’ll be at the Taj Ma­hal.” Do you re­mem­ber the 2000mm lens?

Yes, it’s a very heavy mir­ror lens… When it came out there were three in the UK: Nikon had one, the Min­istry of De­fence had one, and I had one – on loan, of course. It cost more than £20,000. I took the lens to the South of France to pho­to­graph Princess Diana. I had it on the beach at St Tropez on a great big tri­pod and you could see Diana in the dis­tance on a boat – you couldn’t see her with the naked eye. It was per­fect for that sit­u­a­tion, but it wasn’t ma­noeu­vrable – you couldn’t just sling it over your shoul­der. Fast for­ward now to the Coolpix P900 and it’s got a 24-2000mm lens built-in, and it’s re­tail­ing at £500 or £600! The qual­ity is so good. Can you re­call a favourite mo­ment from a royal as­sign­ment? I pro­pose Diana. She was a kinder­garten teacher then. The way news­pa­pers op­er­ate is that we get tipped-off by the staff at the Palace. The pa­per in those days paid the staff re­tain­ers that were more than their salary. That’s how I got the fa­mous pic­tures of the Queen on the beach at Holkham in Nor­folk with the cor­gies [see page 102], and all the tourists walk­ing past tak­ing no no­tice of her. Was that the oc­ca­sion when she was walk­ing on the beach with the Queen Mother? Cor­rect. No­body took any no­tice; I found that stag­ger­ing. Now, with Diana – we called her Lady Di – the ed­i­tor was tipped-off one day. I’d come back from pho­tograph­ing her at kinder­garten and the ed­i­tor called me over: “I need a panoramic shot of Cole­herne Court”. This was where Diana lived with her flat mates. It was in The Boltons in Lon­don, and she was in the first floor flat in the cor­ner room. The ed­i­tor wanted a panoramic shot of the whole of this Ge­or­gian build­ing. He said: “We’ve been tipped-off that Diana Spencer is go­ing to be the next queen of Eng­land, so I’m run­ning it on page one tomorrow, and a spread.”

So, I shoot back down to Cole­herne Court. It’s now 2.30 or three o’clock in the af­ter­noon. I set up a tri­pod and did a panoramic, 180 de­grees. While I’m tak­ing the pic­tures a voice be­hind me said: “Oh, you still here?”

It was her? “Oh, hello Lady Di.” I said: “Sorry I’m here, but I tell you what we’re do­ing: we’re go­ing to run the story tomorrow about you be­ing the next queen of Eng­land.” She went scar­let and smiled. She said: “What are you go­ing to say?”

I said: “Well, this is what…” and she said, “No, don’t say any­thing. Would you like a cup of tea?”

I said, “I’d love one be­cause I’ve missed my lunch do­ing this, but I don’t know any cafés around here.”

She said, “No, come up to the apart­ment, but I have to ask you,

Do you re­mem­ber the 2000mm lens? Nikon had one, the Min­istry of De­fence had one, and I had one – on loan, of course

Mike Maloney Press pho­tog­ra­pher

Pan­das (above ) Mike got ex­clu­sive ac­cess to the in­ner ar­eas of Chengdu Breed­ing Cen­tre in China Crunchie st unt (Top right) Mike lashed him­self to the wing-walk­ing har­ness of a third bi­plane to cap­ture Yves Rossy’s act of dar­ing

God dog! (right)

The Ir­ish Guards’ mas­cot, Malachy, in­spects a sol­dier All abo ard (FAR RIGHT) Six rail­way con­duc­tors hav­ing fun in front of the cam­era

J Paul Getty in 1960, the Amer­i­can oil bil­lion­aire hosted a party at his Sur­rey home – 1200 guests were in­vited, but an es­ti­mated 3000 peo­ple turned up

Tommy coo per

The co­me­dian and Mike be­came friends, and Mike took this photo at Tommy’s home in 1977

An­dre Chikatilo

The Rus­sian gov­ern­ment in­vited Mike to pho­to­graph the no­to­ri­ous mass mur­derer prior to his ex­e­cu­tion

Elto n john

TheDai­lyMir­ror wanted pho­to­graphs of the top of El­ton’s head af­ter his hair trans­plant

Clock­wise, from top left

Torvill and dean

Mike took this shot in 1979, five years be­fore the pair won gold at the 1984 Win­ter Olympics

the quee n’s ex­citeme nt This photo of the Queen at Ep­som won nu­mer­ous awards, and marked the be­gin­ning of a spe­cial con­nec­tion be­tween Mike and the Palace

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