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Trafalgar Square in the heatwave of '76 by Brian Harris

1 August 2023

The summer of 1976… I remember it oh so well…it was hot with a capital ‘H’….

I was just starting to crack the London national press freelance market getting regular ‘shifts’ (at about £15 a day) from The Sun, BBC News, The Times and UPI (United Press International)…it was a busy time often working two shifts a day starting at 8am and going past midnight at The Sun….great times to be a stringer!

In the middle of the summer the country experienced a major heat wave with stand pipes in the streets supplying water and dozens of fires on the heathlands of Surrey and Sussex. I was based in Islington and so I got the London ‘Hot Weather’ gigs for all my clients…not too difficult as London was melting.

This picture was shot in Trafalgar Square whilst walking around town hunting for a picture…it was never published as it was almost impossible to print with extreme shadows and highlights. I found the neg a couple of years back and made a nice scan playing with the details in Photoshop until producing this image…a memory of nearly 50 years back!

Brian Harris has been an editorial, news and current affairs photographer since 1969. Fascinated in his teens by the alchemy of the darkroom in the 1960s Brian started to combine his school work with photographing weddings and football matches in his native Essex. A job as a runner at the Fox Photos agency at the age of sixteen set Brian on the path that would shape his life.

In the 1970s Brian worked in the heart of London’s Fleet Street, freelancing for The Sun, The Times, News of the World, the BBC and United Press International, covering everything from IRA bombings to celebrity news, until joining The Times as its youngest staff photographer aged twenty-five. When The Independent launched in 1986, Brian became its first staff photographer, playing a key role in forming the renowned Indy style of intelligent editorial photography. In his fourteen years at The Independent, Brian travelled the world to cover the stories that defined the era. Since going freelance in 1999, Brian has staged several solo exhibitions, notably at Photofusion Photography Centre, and has contributed to exhibitions organised by the British Press Photographers’ Association. In 2006-7 he collaborated with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on Remembered, a major illustrated book of his photographs and a series of international touring exhibitions chronicling the CWGC’s work caring for the graves of over 1.7 million Commonwealth war dead.

See more work by Brian Harris

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