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Lord Lichfield remembered

14 November 2005 - EPUK

Royal photographer Patrick Lichfield died suddenly from a stroke at the age of 66 last Friday. The sad event led many EPUKers to post on list their anecdotes about him, which are reposted here with permission.

Patrick, 5th Earl of Lichfield at Shugborough Hall. Photograph by Des Gershon

Many moons ago I was a photographer on the Stratford Express in East London. I was doing an arrivals thing at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, of Joan Littlewood fame, for she was hosting the evening for celebs who would normally be going ‘up west’. Anyway Lichfield turns up doing a bit of ‘below the salt’ visiting and I’m there flash in my brolly ready for the shot and he sails by, one crap frame.

“Oi !” I shouts, “”I needs a photo of youse wiv this geeser ‘ere”... For that geeser was the world famous jellied eel man Mr Tubby Issacs who had set up a stall outside the theatre. Lord Litch rose to his full stature of about 5 foot 2 and said imperiously, ‘Do you know who I am ?’

‘Yep’ I said, ‘now go and stand over there and do as you are told’. And he did too. A nice man.” – EPUKer Brian Harris , former chief photographer at the Times and the Independent

When I was a wayward youth, I and some friends climbed over a couple fences to drink a few tins of cider and play football on flattest most immaculate pitch in the county. It just happened to be part of the Lichfield estate. During this drunken knock about a scruffy looking caretaker appeared and we prepared to call it a day rather than have a run in with the law. The scruffy caretaker turned out to be Patrick Lichfield who simply sat on his giant lawn mower and watched our antics.

Later, when I got my first job as a trainee photographer for the local paper I was sent to photograph him handing over a car to a charity. Nervous at being found out as a fraud, I approached the job with trepidation. I need not have worried, he was nice as pie, helped me arrange the group without taking over, and even wound down a window so I didn’t end up with myself in the shot!

Each time I was in his company he was very inquisitive as to how I was composing and lighting my work and was always happy to share information on photography.

Recently he showed me one of his favourite photographs,a picture for a Christmas calendar of Ten Lords a Leaping. Ten members of the House of Lords leaping in the air, including himself. He carefully explained how he had to shoot each Lord individually ( I presumed they all couldnt stay awake long enough to get together) and then sandwich them all together for the finished shot.

His passion for photography rubbed off on a lot of people, myself included, and that can’t be all bad. We seem to have few effective ambassadors for photography in the UK who can talk a good photograph. Now we have one less.” – EPUK freelance Paul Pickard

I had the pleasure of being commissioned to photograph Patrick Lichfield a few years back for a (now-defunct) Staffordshire county magazine. I was somewhat apprehensive and quite expected this off-shoot royalty to be somewhat indifferent to my assignment. I’d photographed a few Lords and Ladies before and had developed a technique of my own to give an impression to the subjects of their assumed importance. Lichfield on the other hand – dodgy! He actually knew something about photography and could look down from his aristocratic perch at yours truly trying to balance a Hasselblad and a couple of Nikons.

I was nervous but I needn’t have been. He made me very welcome at Shugborough Hall. We had a one to one session and he made me incredibly at ease. He showed me around his garden and, as I recall, newly planted trees that had his interest at the time. Later, in one of the elegant rooms of Shugborough, we downed a couple of sherries and chatted on art. Towards the end of our session he suggested a location in the house that he liked and requested a picture be taken there. It was all very casual and I would only wish that other so called important subjects could behave the same. Then again, maybe its our fault they don’t !.

I, for one, am now very grateful for the very short time I had the enjoyment of meeting him. I hope it will not be too long before we are able to see his work exhibited again. – EPUK freelance Des Gershon

The one thing that made Patrick a good photographer, well, people photographer, was his ability to talk to anyone. He could talk to any class of person and find a topic on which to have a chat. Even sitters who were famous in their own right had high regard for Patrick and still thought of having their picture taken by him was an honour.

I remember when we photographed Mr. Maiden and his family. If you see bill boards down the street they more than likely have a sign under them that says ‘Maiden’, well it’s the same man. He had booked Patrick to take their portraits, not cheap either, but he was more than chuffed just to be sitting their whilst Patrick snapped away, making funny quips and retelling stories. This was his forte, his ability to make his sitter feel at home and not scared to be there. We photographed for
the National Gardens scheme, and again Patrick’s knowledge never ceased to amaze me. He had a passion for flowers and trees and would reel of the latin names for anything he’d see and tell you where they originated from etc. And after we’d shot the garden he’d find a local pub and we’d go off and have lunch. The stories of him, Bailey, O’Neill and Snowdon would make me laugh out loud too.

I used to kept check on his archives. In my spare moments I’d browse through the buff envelopes of negs and would be amazed at the people he’d shot or the fact that here was a whole shoot and I had never realised it was Patrick who had taken them. Seeing the whole of Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding photographs – out takes and all – or Mick Jagger’s wedding to Bianca (whom he was best man) was just an amazing privilege. And of course there were stories that went with the shots too!

I only worked with him for 5 months, but it was an honour and privilege to have been a part of Lichfield Studios. My thoughts go to his family, Tom, Rose and Eloise, whom I met once or twice and to his partner Lady Annunciata Asquith (who is a lovely lady, and whom I saw and talked to on a daily basis)

Thank you Patrick. – Patrick Lichfield’s former studio Manager John St John

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