They don't take them like that any more...tribute to James 'Dingo' Rayner, first of the Fleet Street paparazzi

A memorial service is to be held on Friday for one of Fleet Street's  most colourful characters who died earlier this year aged 83.

Freelance James Rayner was nicknamed Dingo because he operated at night like a wild dog with news stories as prey.

He identified himself to news and picture desks by many other names and addresses since he worked on the belief they paid less to regular contributors.

His ear was forever tuned in to the police channel of his radio as he toured London in a car which looked remarkably like a police vehicle.

Always smartly dressed and well endowed with chutzpah, he was often mistaken for an official photographer at crime and accident scenes.

For more than three decades from the 1950s, he frequently filled the first editions of the London evening newspapers with dramatic pictures of death crashes, fire rescues, criminal captures and drunk celebrities.

If the wreckage of a road accident was spread too wide to make a favourable composition, he was not above getting his hands dirty and dragging the damaged parts into the reach of his flashgun.

Flash Jimmy, another of his soubriquets, was among the first of the post-war paparazzi.  His exclusive photographs of David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Lou Reed kissing each other at a private Cafe Royal party marked perhaps the start of Fleet Street's celebrity culture.

George Best stumbling from Tramp nightclub was a frequent victim of his Rollie lens, he rarely if ever used 35mm.

The captured detective-slayer Harry Roberts being led into Paddington Green police station was among his more notable scoops.

His image of another police capture was among the photographic work of London News Service featured in an annual edition of the British Journal of Photography.  

Born and raised in Soho, he was on his way to Blackpool for a holiday when he was seriously injured in a car crash which left him with a distinctive facial scar. During a long hospital recuperation, he discovered he could make money taking photographs for insurance purposes of other injured patients with his holiday camera.

Many photographers and reporters who served an apprenticeship at London News Service learned tricks from James Rayner that could never be taught at college. None of those who went on to national newspapers are currently under police investigation.

He died of a heart attack at the home he shared with his partner Gavin Whitelaw  in Spain. A service will be held at the Baptist Church, Calahonda – on Spain's Costa Del Sol – at 3pm on Friday.

Pictured below with the radio which he would use to (illegally) tune in to the police channel.

 

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