These last few weeks have seen the deaths of two extraordinary people that I consider myself to have been very fortunate to have met back in my newspaper days. Doris Lessing 1919-2013 and Nelson Mandela 1918-2013. Both made the world a better place and both were incredibly generous with their time to a young photographer barely out of short trousers. Mandela, I met twice – once when I was still at college when my friend James Miller and I talked our way into a press conference during his first visit to London after release from prison in South Africa. He took time out to talk to these two young students and was genuinely interested in what we were doing, telling us (even at that stage) that it was important work. James went on to become a superb TV news cameraman and documentary film-maker and was tragically killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003. He did some incredibly important work and I know that, like me, he cherished that first meeting with Mandela.
Doris Lessing was photographed at home in London in 1992 for The Independent newspaper. Usually these newspaper portraits were done in a few minutes flat – a quick hello, assessment of the environment then a photograph and on to the next assignment. With Doris Lessing, I recall it was different. Like Mandela she was genuinely interested and we spent a couple of hours at least at her home talking about everything under the sun over numerous cups of tea.
Two iconic figures of our times. Rest in Peace.