Ken Green: freelance and former chief photographer at the Sunday Mercury

Green: “technically  superb”

Ken Green, a father of four, passed away peacefully at his Bromsgrove home last weekend, surrounded by his loving family.

Married to wife Sue for 29 years, he eventually left the Sunday Mercury in 1987 to launch his own freelance business.

Ken and Sue were parents to Andrew, a 26-year-old press photographer, and musician Steven, 24. He was also father to Claire and Adrian from his first marriage.

Sunday Mercury editor David Brookes said: “Colleagues remember a very lovable guy who was Mercury through and through.

“He had the knack of being in the right place at the right time, and the images he captured are testimony to his professionalism.”

Ken’s funeral will take place at Lodge Hill Crematorium in Weoley Park Road, Selly Oak, at 1pm on Friday, 24 September.

A reception will follow at the Navigation Inn in Wharf Road, Kings Norton, Birmingham.

 

Former Sunday Mercury chief photographer Ken Green has died, aged 67, after a year-long battle against leukaemia.

Green was one of the most accomplished newspaper photographers of his generation.

As a frontline newsman, he was technically superb, sensitive and quite fearless.

Some of his most striking images came from the protest marches, football violence and riots he covered with such cool professionalism. The pictures he brought back could only have been obtained from the thick of the action and on more than one occasion, both he and his equipment were bloodied and in need of repair.

His powerful photograph of an injured West Midlands policeman taken during the Handsworth riots of the Eighties won him national acclaim.

But for those of us who worked with him in the late Sixties, Seventies and beyond, it was his creativity as a features specialist that made him so outstanding. There were no lengths to which he would not go to get the picture he wanted.

He once persuaded the actor Norman Rodway, who was then appearing as Richard III at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in StratforduponAvon, to travel all the way to the scene of the King’s fateful battle at Bosworth to be photographed. The great thespian went in Ken’s car in full stage gear, including sword.

He had natural empathy with actors and performers. He photographed The Beatles at their first appearance in the Midlands and it was Ken who had the last picture session with Tony Hancock before the legendary comedian took his own life.

The images of a forlorn human being were haunting.

At one time he had a love affair with sunsets and would stop anywhere and get the camera out if he saw an evening sky he liked the look of.

Months later, these shots would mysteriously appear as the backdrop to buildings or landmarks he had taken and decided needed a little something extra. He spent hours in the darkroom concocting these ‘perfect’ pictures.

A Midlander to the core, he revelled in images that recorded a passing way of life; the old Birmingham meat market at 4am, the canals in winter, the last of the back-to-back houses.

But he was never hung up on grim realism. And having conjured up an image in his mind, he would work non-stop to make it appear.

He once spent days finding a farmer with a machine that shook cider apples from a tree and then got a girl to sit underneath with an umbrella as apples rained down (above left).

It was one of the shots that won him the 1979 Midland Press Photographer of the Year title – one of his many awards – which was presented to him by the newly installed Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

What he wanted always was the unexpected, the striking, the extraordinary.

But he belonged to an era when the media still had room for a touch of poetry.

For younger newspapermen like me, Ken’s dedication and enthusiasm were an inspiration. Working with him was a privilege and an invaluable education.

Wherever he is now, we can be sure he is already rearranging it in order that it makes a better picture.

Peter Whitehouse, former editor of the Sunday Mercury

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