Elizabeth Taylor, London, November 1948, by Chris Ware

Alan Sparrow introduces this month’s image

Chris Ware was a soft-spoken gentleman. He was born in 1900 in Kent and I met him in 1971 when I started work for the Keystone Press Agency. 

He had stories of travel around the world and around Europe, where he knew many royal families and photographed most of them.

He told me that when he was 14 years old he had been given a Kodak camera by his mother. He took that camera out daily with him on the morning milk round that he had. As the horse drawn milk float moved through the woods near Biggin Hill, Kent, the keen-eyed teenage photographer spotted that a bi-plane from the newly formed Royal Flying Corps, had crashed in the woods. He approached the soldier who was on duty guarding the downed plane and asked if he could have permission to take a picture; “Go on son’’ said the sentry, and Chris photographed the broken plane. He sent the picture to the Daily Mirrorand according to Chris' wonderful story the Mirrorpublished the picture on the front page and promised that when he left school there would be job for him on the Daily Mirror.

I have never seen the page or the picture, but Chris was such a gentleman one would feel guilty to even believe that he was not telling the truth.

Keystone colleague, photographer Ian Tyas, adds:“He was always highly regarded by his boss and editor Bertram Garai, and one much talked about event that happened before my arrival was when he photographed a young teenage starlet Elizabeth Taylor.

“So the story goes, he took her around the sights of London travelling by double-decker buses (Keystone was tight on expenses), and on returning to Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, they got caught in a thunderstorm, soaking them both.

Chris, ever the gentleman, invited her into the features department  in order to dry off and when Bertram popped his head around the door she was sitting on one of the large radiators wearing not a lot, sipping a mug of tea whilst the rest of her clothes were drying around her. Sadly no one photographed that – it would have been priceless. This one was taken in November 1st, 1948, on the London set of the film The Conspirator, directed by Victor Saville, she was he was making in London. She was 16.

Working and learning with Chris was a delight, though we soon became competitive. One such was when Bertram suggested that we should spend a long weekend producing a feature at a nudist camp which was becoming the vogue in the late 60s.

Of course, we both volunteered but Chris got the assignment on seniority. On arriving at the reception he was greeted by a lovely naked young woman and told to undress in a room opposite and place his clothes in a metal cupboard. On entering, Chris was surprised that there were no privacy screens to undress so he opened the cupboard door wide and used that to spare his blushes. Adjusting the straps on his cameras to their longest, he gingerly stepped outside and thoroughly enjoyed the next three days to the extent that on returning home to Richmond, he immediately took off all his clothes and wandered around the house and garden in naked freedom, to the amusement of his wife and no doubt the neighbours.

This picture and others by Chris Ware are available from Fleet Streets Finest





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