Dermot Morgan 18th February 1998 Soho.
It’s difficult to believe it’s been 17 years since Dermot Morgan the eponymous hero of Father Ted died. I happened to photograph Dermot a few days days before his untimely death of a heart attack at 45. I loved the program but my enthusiasm for meeting ‘Father Ted’ was tempered by fatigue.
We’d just moved house and were adjusting to the sleepless nights that come with young children.
The 5 miles from my house in Hackney to the West End were a daze.
It was only at Calumet (I think they were called KJP back then) buying film that I realised I’d left my equipment at home and they had no cameras at the Soho branch.
We hired a portable flash system that I strapped to my then assistant Sarah Dunn and I ran to Jessops and bought a secondhand Fuji 6×9 rangefinder on my credit card thinking I would return the camera the next day. In the carpark adjacent to the cafe where we were due to meet, we plugged in the lights.
There was a pop and then they started smoking. We were now late and it was getting dark.
Sometimes, I experience scenarios like this, in anxious, panic ridden dreams from which I’m always relieved to wake. Now it was happening for real. Although magazines usually wanted colour, I decided to shoot B&W and hand-held. My Tri-X film rated at 1600asa.
The pre-shoot madness meant I didn’t really calm down and spent a frantic 20 minutes darting around damp streets, shooting in the seedy doorways before being moved on. Although Dermot was easy-going and compliant, it was a slightly melancholic shoot and we said our goodbyes as it started to rain.
Driving home I pondered how I would explain to the Sunday Times the obvious photographic shortcomings.
10 days later and his death was all over the news. The article became a eulogy. The pictures seemed to have a poignancy that would have been missing were they in colour or lit with flash. Sometimes in a difficult situation you learn more than when things go really well. I decided not to return the camera.