Alisdair Macdonald: 1940-2007

March 26, 2007

There are only a handful of press photographers working presently in the UK who can honestly say without a hint of arrogance that they have been there and done that! Alisdair Macdonald who sadly died on Tuesday last week, was one of that select handful. A truly remarkable photographer, his range of work is testament to his unique ability to nail it when it mattered. A Daily Mirror staffer he could easily have slipped into the role of wire agency photographer in every sense. It is often said that people never realize what they have until it is gone, but every Fleet Street photographer who knew Alisdair, witnessed his unbridled passion for pictures and his consummate professionalism and dignity in creating them.

Red Arrows at Farnborough Airshow

Having covered a half a dozen Farnborough air shows myself alongside Alisdair, we would sit and wait for the afternoon aerial displays to start. The brief was simple. Shoot some pretty plane pictures and if one crashes make sure you have it. Contrary to the rest of us who would sit and wait only for the Red Arrows display, Alisdairs camera never left his eye from the opening Airbus 350 sequence to the flypast finale, and this he would do all week. The point here is that had something happened midair, there was only ever going to be one photographer to get that picture.

Charles and DIana Kiss

That picture. Charles and Diana kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Not an easy picture to capture taking into consideration the hours of waiting, the weather, the long lenses needed, fighting your way through the public for a spot and making sure there is enough film in the camera for the moment. This was one picture Alisdair was never going to miss.

Michael CaineThe Beatles

What photographer would not want these portraits of a Beatle or one of Britains finest actors gracing their walls? The Michael Caine portrait is deceptive in its simplicity. Down a London side street leaning against a wall and shot in black and white, nothing could have typified Caines look and appeal more than this.

True to his news roots, Alisdairs ability to react on the spot resulted in his fabulous picture of two workmen and two policemen casually wandering away from the freshly punctured water main. Pure poetry.

Workman and punctured water main

Alisdair was one of that select few who have embraced everything that this industry has thrown at them. Today we occasionally moan about lens quality, image resolution, not enough frames per second, the weight of our equipment, the processing speeds of our laptops and the signal strength of the nearest coffee shop wifi. Let us just imagine for a moment shooting a soccer match on a plate camera or a high court snatch on a rolleiflex? Most of us wouldnt have survived. A Fleet Street institution, has left this world and left his mark. We are all the better for having worked with him.

Alisdair Macdonald portrait

Ali Mac 1940-2007

All pictures courtesy of The Daily Mirror.

One comment

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I am not sure if you will remeber me, I came into the Reuters picture desk office in Febuary as a guest of David, who judged a competition I won in september last year. I spoke with you about your evening at the Brit awards you had been at the evening before and photojournalism on the whole, not sure you will remember.

I was looking at David’s blogs and saw yours so I thought I would say hello.

That day I was in I remember coming away from the office absolutly thrilled with my fantastic few hours that I had learnt so much but also I was slightly annoyed with myself for not asking some useful questions that I should have done, I was hoping that you may be able to anwser for me.

I wanted to ask how you get involved with reuters as a photographer? I know I have had some what of a head start with a good link with David.

I also wanted to ask whether a qualification in the area is required to get into the industry. I know of a degree in photojournalism at London college of comunication however I come to ask myself whether it is a practice you can learn from a degree or something you pick up on as you do it.

I am so desperate to do what I want to do and I become paranoid that I will make the wrong decision in trying to do so. I would be most grateful for a few words of wisdom.
Thank you very much for your time, I look forward to your response.
Thank you very much

Joseph Davies

P.S Just wanted to say I love your picture in ‘The State Of The World’ of Micheal Vaughan’s hands besieged by confetti, I really like it.

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