David McEnery

David McEnery, who has died aged 62, was once described – by John Saunders, editor of Photography magazine – as "the world’s funniest photographer".

Brother of the actors John and Peter, David was born in Walsall. While still in his teens he moved to Brighton, where he began working as a local newspaper photographer.

"I always did look for the funny slant in the situations I photographed," he said. "Then one day I offered a funny shot to a national newspaper, and they bought it on the spot." Seeing a possible career path opening up before him, David quit his job at the Brighton Argus and went freelance.

David’s work differed from the majority of the "lighthearted look at life" pictures which found their way to the newspapers, in that they were "enhanced" – not digitally, this being the early 1960s, but manually. Instead of the risky business of waiting for and, with luck, capturing a humorous "decisive moment", David opted for the certainty of creating the situations, with the aid of a lively imagination and some simple props.

Some newspaper picture editors didn’t quite get the joke when he began submitting his quirky pictures. But gradually they started to see the appeal of a good laugh as an antidote to the grim realities of hard news.

Soon, via Rex Features, which represented David throughout his career, McEnery’s funnies had become a regular feature in the UK nationals, and in countless newspapers and magazines around the world. The Daily Mirror, in particular, loved his work, to the point that when Rex MD Frank Selby, who was still the company’s salesman, turned up with his briefcase on his rounds, the paper’s then picture editors Alan Baird and Len Greener would ask eagerly, "What have you got from McEnery today?".

An even more fulsome accolade came from the paper’s editor, Mike Molloy, who was appraising David’s work over drinks in "The Stab" (the White Hart, the Mirror’s "annexe" in New Fetter Lane). "Those aren’t funny prints," he announced. "They’re bromide Botticellis!"

McEnery’s pictures still sell around the world, even though many are over 30 years old – proof that a good joke is timeless.

David McEnery was married three times. He leaves a widow, Pat, and two children.

Mike Selby

 

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