Michael Ward (1929-2011)

I don’t think I ever talked to Michael Ward, who started as a freelance in 1958 and worked as a photographer for the Sunday Times for around 30 years starting in 1965, but there are a few of his pictures I recognised when I read about him and his work.

Ward, who died last month, once calculated that he had covered 5,500 assignments over his career. In some respects he seems a rather typical British press photographer from an earlier age where things were rather less pressured, and, as Ian Jack notes in his obituary in The Guardian, Ward “wrote that he knew ‘as much or as little about the processes of photography as a decent amateur’.” Jack goes on to comment: “Technically, he knew he was far from accomplished. Aesthetically, he was never sure what separated a good picture from an indifferent one.”

Ward got his first picture published by borrowing a Rolleiflex from a friend, racing driver Stirling Moss, and taking pictures at the track while Moss was driving; one of them, a picture of Moss’s wife Kate, was published in Women’s Own.

You can examine a little of Ward’s photography on his website , where I think you get a very good idea of him from the stories he tells about some of the pictures and the people he photographed.  He met and photographed many people I would have liked to have met, though they are not always fine pictures, but occasionally he captures a great moment.

He also handled some difficult stories, in particular the Aberfan disaster, but some of his best pictures are those of children which you can see in his ‘Portfolio 6’, in particular one that stands out from the rest of the images on the site, of five young kids – three white and two black – posing with their bogie and a tricycle in front of a Gents Hairdressing Salon on a grim street in Manchester in 1969.  Although it is titled Racial Tension – Manchester they seem to be playing happily together and directing some large grins at the camera.  It’s a picture I’ll remember him for.

Ward wrote an autobiography which included more than 200 of his pictures, entitled ‘Mostly Women’  and it was published by Granta in June 2006, leading to a renewal of interest in his work and several more exhibitions.

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