Meet­ing pho­tog­ra­phy roy­alty Peter Bush dis­cusses ev­ery­thing from roy­alty to meat pies with UK pho­tog­ra­pher Arthur Ed­wards and dis­cov­ers how he’s de­vel­oped his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer

The Shed - - Column - Peter Bush

Af­ter shak­ing hands and find­ing a quiet cor­ner in a crowded ho­tel foyer, we only had 20 brief min­utes for my in­ter­view with Arthur Ed­wards, and, dur­ing those 20 min­utes, this warm and very per­son­able pho­tog­ra­pher took me on a roller-coaster ride into the world of a UK royal pho­tog­ra­pher.

Out­side the dark­ened foyer, it was a bril­liant day, with peo­ple al­ready mov­ing to take up po­si­tions to en­sure that they got a great spot to wit­ness the home­com­ing All Blacks parad­ing through the city.

Arthur Ed­wards — ever the pro­fes­sional — in­formed me that, be­cause the royal cou­ple, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, were go­ing to meet the ‘men in black’ at par­lia­ment, his time for the in­ter­view would be lim­ited, and he would shortly have to put on his suit, gather his equip­ment, and go with the other UK pho­tog­ra­phers to cap­ture this meet­ing of the royal cou­ple with the All Blacks.

There was no need to en­quire whether this vet­eran of 11 ar­rivals to New Zealand needed to be told just where the All Blacks fit­ted into the coun­try’s psy­che. Af­ter so many trips, he knows this coun­try very well and has even made a pri­vate visit here with his wife, adding that if they were to live any­where else but Bri­tain, New Zealand would be a first choice. That was fur­ther en­dorsed when Prime Min­is­ter John Key sug­gested, at one of the royal-tour meet­ings, that maybe Arthur should ap­ply for per­ma­nent New Zealand res­i­dency.

How­ever, any move in this di­rec­tion would still be some time off in the fu­ture, as he sketched out for me his itin­er­ary for the next few months. This in­cluded a visit to Malta with the Queen and Prince Philip, which would oc­cur shortly af­ter his re­turn from the trip he was on at the time of the in­ter­view, fol­lowed by a short visit to Paris with Prince Charles for the open­ing of the vi­tal cli­mate talks.

An­other re­cent trip was with Prince Wil­liam when he went to the White House to meet Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. To be hon­est, we could eas­ily fill the rest of this in­ter­view with talk­ing about the many coun­tries and places Arthur has vis­ited to pho­to­graph roy­alty.

My pre­pared list of ques­tions for our in­ter­view seemed su­per­flu­ous as we ranged freely over his 40 years of news pho­tog­ra­phy, much of it cov­er­ing the royal fam­ily, both at home and abroad. Of New Zealand, he feels our great­est as­set is our peo­ple, who he de­scribed as be­ing so friendly and po­lite, with no ap­par­ent ‘rat race’ (maybe he should try Auck­land on a Fri­day af­ter­noon). He also felt that, from the first time he vis­ited in 1983, the of­fi­cials — from im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms on­wards — were al­ways most cour­te­ous and help­ful.

“Like, take where I live — there are over 10 mil­lion peo­ple in the area, so ev­ery­where

26 | pho­tog­ra­phers­ is very crowded. Why do so many New Zealan­ders want to go and live in the UK?” he asked.

I found that a bit hard to an­swer, so I in­stead asked when and where he started out on his long ca­reer. He said it was on the East Lon­don Ad­ver­tiser — a small pa­per but one at which he would quite of­ten cover up to 10 jobs per day, in­clud­ing ev­ery­thing from news to ad­ver­tis­ing.

His next and best move was to The Sun, where he was lucky to cover only one job a day, and he was of­ten sent to pho­to­graph the royal fam­ily. And so it grew — now he is The Sun’s ‘royal pho­tog­ra­pher’.

Like many other pho­tog­ra­phers, he has ex­pe­ri­enced the end of film and the rise and rise of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies with mixed feel­ings. One of his last ma­jor shoots with film was of Princess Diana’s fu­neral, and, be­cause it was on a week­end, he had the time to shoot it with film (Fuji colour neg­a­tive) rather than dig­i­tal.

Two weeks be­fore she was killed, he had gone with Princess Diana to Bos­nia, where he had used one of “Those very new … aw­ful dig­i­tal cam­eras”; but, even though he was not happy with the cam­era, The Sun ran 17 pic­tures of the trip, and there was also great de­mand from the pub­lic for prints of her visit.

While we con­tin­ued to de­bate the use of film ver­sus dig­i­tal, he re­minded me that, for the royal tour to the south­ern hemi­sphere in 1983, his main suit­case was just about full of film, whereas, now, a cou­ple of ex­tra im­age cards will suf­fice.

In the tran­si­tion from film to dig­i­tal, he felt there were both good and not-so-good changes.Two of the main good points are the ab­sence of dust and the on­go­ing qual­ity of the prints. How­ever, he felt that dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies have cheap­ened pho­tog­ra­phy and that a lot of what is shot is rub­bish and, also, so many peo­ple think that they should be given prints from news events for noth­ing!

Inevitably, I raised the old chest­nut: when are you go­ing to re­tire? With a chuckle, he said, “I am asked that at least three times a week, but, while I have slowed up a bit, I still en­joy it very much, and the travel is no prob­lem. My wife is a most un­der­stand­ing woman, and, of our three chil­dren — two sons and a daugh­ter — one son is a pic­ture editor at The Sun, the other a pho­tog­ra­pher, also on The Sun, and shortly off to Africa with Prince Harry — and my daugh­ter runs her own nurs­ery. And, with four grand­chil­dren, we are well blessed.”

Be­fore I could ask what his most spe­cial or great­est pic­tures were, he qui­etly told me of a visit that he made to South­ern Su­dan and of meet­ing a won­der­ful woman there with a per­ma­nent smile and rosary beads around her neck. The woman told him that she had lost six of her chil­dren to measles, which, along with malaria, was one of the ma­jor killers in that coun­try. Daily, she faced a two-kilo­me­tre walk to get enough wa­ter for their needs, so Arthur and two of his mates ar­ranged for a well to be dug near the woman’s home, and the prob­lem was quickly solved. It was, he said, one of the hap­pi­est and most last­ing mem­o­ries he had, see­ing the joy it brought to this won­der­ful woman. “I re­ally feel more about that well than any­thing else I’ve done,” he ex­plained.

Later, I felt a lit­tle bit stupid when I asked about any books he had pub­lished, and he gen­tly re­minded me that he tries to bring a book out ev­ery cou­ple of years, ei­ther on roy­alty or about his ex­ten­sive trav­els.

His lat­est ef­fort, Mag­i­cal Mo­ments, is still sell­ing steadily, and his book on Princess Diana,

I’ll Tell the Jokes Arthur, is still one of his favourites.

On gear, he has stayed with Nikon his whole ca­reer, and it has stayed with him. His favourite Nikon was the D5, and he says it’s the “best they made”, and, with the 28–70mm lens be­ing his favourite, he ad­vises that, “it al­ways de­liv­ers”.

He’s sam­pled cui­sine through­out the world but rated one of the best New Zealand meals as the one he and an­other pho­tog­ra­pher en­joyed on this tour af­ter fly­ing back from Dunedin to Welling­ton. It was his favourite, pie and mash. Arthur ex­plained that he tries to have just two meat meals a week and keeps a care­ful eye on his weight, en­sur­ing that he stays in the best shape to con­tinue his long and suc­cess­ful ca­reer as royal pho­tog­ra­pher at The Sun.

Arthur Ed­wards

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