‘The Viscount’was a nickname bestowed on photographer Vincent Eckersley by a stunning hotel receptionist in Las Vegas who was fooled by his accent and flowery signature. She immediately offered him a room upgrade and whispered to her colleagues that they had a member of the English aristocracy as a guest.
Vince, who lived in Atherton, Lancashire, was an irrepressible, engaging talent, and a raconteur who trained as an architect but turned in his drawing board for a Nikon after scooping the top prize at one of the Leigh Camera Club’s photo contests in the early Sixties. He went on to study photography at Manchester University’s Institute of Science and Technology.
He began shooting for catalogue companies in Manchester until he tired of ‘snapping men in underpants, pointing at things”. Vince moved to London for a stint with Decca Records, charming and photographing its stable of British stars, including Lulu, PJ Proby and the Rolling Stones. After that he moved to Reveille to do, as he put it, ‘the daft features”, such as flying with the Red Arrows.
In 1973 he joined the National Enquirer and travelled the world. He produced the sort of pictures the Enquirer loved: cave paintings of UFOs, the Andes’ plane-crash survivors, victims of wars and hurricanes. One of his most memorable assignments was sleeping in the bush with Joy and George Adamson and their lions.
Vince went on to become the Hollywood picture editor for the Enquirer and, along with one of the paper’s reporters, discovered a damning piece of evidence in the civil OJ Simpson trial. At the criminal trial Simpson said he had never owned a pair of Bruno Magli shoes and was acquitted. Before the civil trial that followed, Vincent and the reporter went through the whole of the Enquirer film archive and found a picture of Simpson walking away from an American football game.
Simpson has his foot in mid-air and, by enlarging the picture, it was clear from the distinctive sole pattern that the shoes were a pair of Bruno Magli. This evidence was presented at Simpson’s civil trial.
David Barritt, a top South African media man who became one of Vince’s biggest friends and fans, said he met Vince in January 1974 when Vince flew to South Africa to photograph the world’s first surviving sextuplets.
‘Vince loved Africa – for him it was a place of adventure and romance and he would seek any excuse to spend time there. So much so that, once in Africa, it was hard to get him out,’Barritt said. ‘I remember one occasion, when Vince was fairly newly-married. He was on an African safari and after weeks of nagging him to come home with no success, his wife Katie resorted to the desperate ruse of admitting herself to hospital.
‘He shot back to America only to find Katie, right as rain, having a party in the hospital room.’
Barritt continued: ‘Physically, Vince was a strong man – twice I saw him pursue muggers, once in Johannesburg where he rescued my wife’s handbag, and once in Nairobi where a mugger targeted me. Vince bounced him away as if he were a tennis ball.’
Vince left the Enquirer in 2001 and returned to England, but frequently travelled to Florida and South Africa.
Vince is survived by his children Robyn and James, and his younger brother Stephen. Vince and Stephen were working on the life of the Wigan painter Lawrence Isherwood when Vince died in September.