Ray Christopher - Former chief photographer, Medway News and Standard

Ray Christopher, one of the last of the old guard of local news photographers, has died, aged 70, after a series of strokes.

He
trained with a London agency – one of his jobs was as runner with the
glass negatives at King George VI’s funeral – before moving to the
Chatham (now Medway) News and Standard, as chief photographer for
nearly 40 years.

Gerald Hinks, his editor for a quarter of a
century, said when Ray retired in 1996: “Ray’s extraordinary talent is
being able to conjure up a memorable picture from the most mundane
engagement. He is incapable of taking a boring picture.”

Graham
Parrett, another former editor, said: “Ray was one of the rare
newspapermen who could return from a difficult assignment with his
picture, without having rubbed people up the wrong way. I don’t
remember a cameraman with such easygoing charm, combined with technical
competence and an eye for a picture.”

Ray won many awards. One of
his favourites was not from the many crime, naval and industrial dramas
in the hard news beat of the Medway towns.

It came from a humdrum
job that turned into pure farce when a curtain fell on the mayor’s head
as he opened a new pub in Chatham.

Ray loved the picture because
it represented a photographer’s dream come true – an unexpected event
that could not have been stunted.

Probably his greatest picture was his award-winning shot of a blazing figurehead during a fire at Chatham Dockyard in the 1960s.

It made the nationals and was included in world press exhibitions.

Ray
was covering a mundane job at the naval base when flames suddenly
engulfed the historic building. The photographers ran for their lives,
but Ray spotted the potential picture – the figurehead wreathed in
flames – and paused to take it.

Even a heart attack and subsequent by-pass operation didn’t stop Ray smiling for long.

His
tales of Suez, endless jokes, political incorrectness and, of course,
his talent, made him a favourite with scores of cub reporters.

Diane
Nicholls, now editor of the News, wrote in her tribute: “Ray’s local
knowledge and contacts made life easier for bewildered trainees. Going
out on a story with Ray was a treat for a green recruit. He would
ensure you got the story by introducing you to the people you needed to
meet.”

Ray leaves a widow, Liz; a son and daughter by his first marriage; and a stepdaughter.

Stephen Rayner

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