By 1971 Ida Kar had to vacate the Mayfair residence, and with her career also in a severe down turn, John could no longer continue as her ‘pupil’. From this time on he had to find his own way.
However, John soon found positions as a freelance studio manager and b/w printer to photographers including Mark Gerson, Sam Haskins, Anthony Crickmay, Theo Bergstrom, Graham Henderson, Edward Arrowsmith and Lester Bookbinder in the areas of still life, fashion and portrait. During this period he also gradually took on more responsibility of the creative aspects.
In 1975, John opened his own independent studio, initially in Smithfield’s Market, and thereafter re-locating to Limehouse Cut. He became firmly established in the areas of advertising, editorial, design and packaging, and portraits. Some of his most notable works during this period were within the bustling music industry with several assignments as tour photographer to the likes of Kiss/Bob Seger; Supertramp; Slick/Midge Ure; Led Zeppelin.
John had a very fine eye for detail and honed these skills and techniques on his much loved and favoured Gandolfi large frame camera.
He never lost his passion for photography – at times it seemed it was the only thing he lived for. He never tired of exploring new approaches and possibilities. Sometimes it seemed as though he viewed life through a view finder, often holding his hands in a framing position and commenting on an interesting composition. Other times, quite unexpectedly, he would remark on a particular mood of light.
Although John was very late to embrace digital photography, he was very keen to explore its possibilities. And had his life not been cut short it would almost certainly have opened a new and exciting chapter in his career.
On a personal note, John was interested in almost everything and everybody – very garrulous and knowledgeable – he loved to talk and could hold his own debating most any subject. He was a loyal and kind person and could, when the mood struck him, be exceptionally funny.
His meticulous eye for detail bordered frequently on the obsessive. Every object, however functional and banal, had to be aesthetically pleasing and represent the best principles of design. Even a small detail like a milk jug or door handle for example had to be agreeable and he would happily do without either for years until he spotted just the right thing. In fact, he only found and purchased the ‘right’ laptop in 2009, just weeks before his death.
He loved a good burger and chips, mechanical toys, rock music, cats, snooker, Matisse, rummaging in antique jobs and reclamation yards, and rainy day reflections of light.
His enthusiasms knew no bounds. Cooking and gardening were recent passions. His quest to create the perfect Singapore noodle dish and get his fig tree to produce fruit meant extensive research. His friends loyally ate their fill of noodles and would patiently wait while he interrogated garden centre staff.
He took life’s knocks on the chin and believed hard work and resourcefulness would ultimately generate just rewards. There was no room for self-pity and negativity – it was always onward and upward – a cuppa, a roll-up and a fresh start to a new day!
Surely ‘a man of his time’.