obituaries Romano Cagnoni

My father, photojournalist and longstanding NUJ member Romano Cagnoni, died in Tuscany on 30 January 2018 aged 82. Former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans said he viewed Romano as “one of the most important photographers of the 20th century.” Romano Cagnoni was born in the coastal

Tuscan town of Pietrasanta. After school and ignoring his father’s advice to become a bookkeeper, Romano found work in a photographic studio in his home town where he learned the basic skills of his trade, later turning to beach photography to supplement his income. He arrived in London in the late 1950s and launched a freelance career photographing many weddings within the newly immigrant black community around east London’s Hackney, as local studios would often refuse these commissions because of racial prejudice. Often he found himself emerging from the receptions almost as tipsy as the wedding guests, such was their kind welcome. His first scoop came when he climbed down from the rooftop of the Dorchester Hotel to photograph Elizabeth Taylor on the balcony of her hotel room dining with her husband Eddie Fisher. Taylor was in London to film Cleopatra, but refused to face the press. Romano made enough from these paparazzi pictures to buy the better equipment he needed to take the photos he really wanted to take. A fellow photographer, Alan Vines, introduced

Romano to Simon Guttmann, one of the founding fathers of photojournalism in late 1920s Berlin and the man said to have given a camera in 1932 to his then darkroom boy Robert Capa. Guttmann persuaded Romano to join him in working for his photo bureau Report in London. Helen Warby, Romano’s wife, would

later join them, operating as a picture editor and administrator. The Report photographic archive is still active, with many photos available. Guttmann had excellent contacts in the labour movement and the progressive cultural forces then emerging within Britain. In 1964, Romano acted as the official Labour party photographer, photographing Harold Wilson as he travelled across Britain leading his party to victory in the October general election. Then came his greatest scoop. Guttmann, using his contacts book again, managed to gain permission for three men – renowned journalist James Cameron, Cagnoni and news cameraman Malcolm Aird – to be the first independent, western reporters to enter North Vietnam, in November 1965, at the height of the war being fought against the US. Romano produced a number of evocative photos of the ordinary Vietnamese people reflecting their daily lives as they lived through the bombing of their homes by seemingly overwhelming forces. His photos of president Ho Chi Minh and prime minister Pham Van Dong were splashed across the front covers of many major magazines, including LIFE, Espresso, The Observer and The Economist. Two years later in 1967, he headed for Biafra to

cover the three-year Nigerian Civil War for Report. Romano’s commitment to the Biafran people’s cause, reflected in the powerful photos he took, used extensively across the world’s press, made it very much “Cagnoni’s war”. He received the US’s prestigious Press Award for his coverage of the war in LIFE magazine. By the early 1970s, Romano had parted

company with Simon Guttmann and Report. He began to freelance, covering stories for numerous publications including The Observer and Sunday Times magazines. The next decade started with him producing

two photo essays on the Russian army’s presence in Afghanistan and, later, its military presence in Poland. He worked clandestinely, using a camera loaded with small 110mm film that he hid in a large mitten with a hole cut in it. In 1991, he went to photograph the conflict in the former Yugoslavia; images were again used across the world’s press. In 1995 in Grozny, he set up a photographic studio in the middle of a war zone during the conflict between the Russians and Chechen rebels. Even into his 70s he worked in Syria and,

following up an idea of his wife Patti, gave refugee children phones and asked them to take selfies as they somehow survived living in the camps.

He is survived by his third wife, Patti, his first wife Helen, his son Stefano (myself) and daughter Tania, his three grandchildren, Rosa, Tommaso and Anna, and his older sister Anna-Maria.

Stefano Cagnoni theJournalist | 25

Gerry McCann

The NUJ has paid tribute to Scottish photographer Gerry McCann, who has died at the age of 64. In a thirty-year carer McCann undertook assignments all over the world, but was probably best known for his long stint as the main photographer for the Times Education Supplement Scotland. Originally from Lanarkshire, Gerry attended

Holy Cross High School in Hamilton. His editorial photography appeared in nearly every British newspaper and many others around the world. In 1988 he documented the results of war and famine in Ethiopia – and returned to the country 20 years later to pick up the stories of some of those he had met in the wake of the conflict. His work also illustrated numerous books.

Gerry joined the NUJ in 1986 and remained a

loyal member until his death. A familiar face at NUJ events in Scotland and beyond, he will be remembered for his doggedness and commitment to social justice. John Toner, the NUJ’s Scottish Organiser said: “Our paths crossed many times over the years. It was Gerry’s devotion to photography as a craft and to the importance of a trades union to protect all journalists for which I will remember him.”

Tim Dawson

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