Buccaneering Mail photographer Gary Trotter, who photographed John Prescott playing croquet on the lawn of his grace and favour mansion when he was supposed to be running the country, has died.
Gary, 65, was a fearless war photographer who covered countless conflicts including the Balkans, both Iraq Wars and Afghanistan after 9/11.
But one of his most inspired scoops was closer to home.
In 2006 when Prime Minister Tony Blair went abroad leaving his deputy, Mr Prescott, officially in charge, Gary trained his camera lens on Dorneywood, Prescott’s official country residence, ‘on a hunch.’
It paid off when he caught Prescott and his team of civil servants and Labour aides playing croquet on the manicured lawn.
Mail photographer Gary Trotter with Afghan refugee children in Quetta, Pakistan, in September 2001
Gary’s picture of John Prescott and his team of civil servants and Labour aides playing croquet on the lawn at Dorneywood, his official country residence, made the front page of the Mail on Sunday and was followed up throughout the media
Mr Prescott, in charge when Tony Blair went abroad, was caught playing croquet on the manicured lawn in 2006
Gary gives Mr Prescott a signed picture of him playing croquet at a book signing at Ruskin College, Oxford in June 2008
Gary takes pictures of the filming of Alexander starring Colin Farrell in the desert near Marrakech in Morocco in 2003
It made the front page of the Mail on Sunday and was followed up throughout the media.
Gary said later: ‘With the naked eye, you could clearly see them on the lawn. When I looked through a long lens and saw what they were doing I had to laugh.’
Gary with his wife Liz at their wedding in 2013
Peter Wright, editor of the Mail on Sunday at the time, said yesterday: ‘It was a genuine ‘hold the front page moment.’ Gary’s unique talent was that as well as being a superb war photographer, he cared about those he was photographing – and was as good at getting a great picture of a celebrity – or the Deputy PM playing croquet when he should have been at work.’
It is what Gary did after the Prescott photo that marks him out.
He used the freelance earnings from it to campaign successfully for the release from jail in Iraq, his friend, guide and interpreter Tarik Ramadan.
Such was Gary’s charm that Prescott posed for a souvenir photograph with him – together with the notorious croquet photo – when they met later.
After starting as a cruise liner photographer, he progressed via his local Slough Express to the Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail in addition to running his own photographic agency, ‘Images Sans Frontieres,’ cheekily named after the Medecin Sans Frontieres aid agency he came across on his travels.
Interviewed about his colourful career, he once said: ‘I taught myself photography. From early on I was interested in photo-journalism. This was the era of films such as ‘Full Metal Jacket’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’ which no doubt had an influence on me. I was drawn to the adrenalin rush and the unconventional lifestyles photographers seemed to have.
‘I am best known for photographing wars, riots, and risky situations, but I cover all sorts of news. I photograph royals and celebrities sometimes but they don’t really interest me.’
After photographing a one year old boy, Awlia, in an Afghan refugee camp, Gary realised the child was dying from dehydration and diarrhoea.
He paid for him to be treated.
Ever resourceful, unable to get a flight to Sarajevo when it was under ferocious shelling in the 1990s Balkan War, Gary commandeered a Land Rover – which he dubbed the ‘Memphis Belle’ after the fictionalised film about a WW2 American bomber – drove it into the city, filmed the devastation and suffering, and drove it out again.
After starting as a cruise liner photographer, Gary progressed via his local Slough Express to the national press
Gary was a fearless war photographer who covered countless conflicts around the world
Gary said his ‘proudest achievement’ was to be among the first to draw attention to the dangers of land mines
Gary ran his own photographic agency, ‘Images Sans Frontieres,’ named after the Medecin Sans Frontieres aid agency
Asked to define his ideal assignment, Gary said: ‘A small war, a beach and a bar that serves Jack Daniels’
A fellow photographer said Gary ‘went to the most dangerous places without a thought for his own safety’
Gary covered countless conflicts including the Balkans, both Iraq Wars and Afghanistan after 9/11
Gary was described as a ‘superb war photographer’ by former Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright
Gary said his ‘proudest achievement’ was to be among the first to draw attention to the dangers of land mines, commenting ruefully: ‘Before Diana got involved it was almost impossible to get any newspapers to take notice.’
Asked what job he would do if he was not a photographer, he said: ‘Aid worker, landmine clearance,’ adding mischievously, ‘or mercenary.’
Asked to define his ideal assignment, he grinned: ‘A small war, a beach and a bar that serves Jack Daniels.’
Gary’s motto on his Facebook page was: ‘If you are afraid to live your life because you might die, you have already died.’
Gary took this amusing picture of The Coneheads holding their Kodak Brownie cameras
Gary’s close friend Tim Page (pictured together), renowned for his photographs of the Vietnam War, paid tribute to him
Gary’s motto on his Facebook page was: ‘If you are afraid to live your life because you might die, you have already died’
Gary once said: ‘I am best known for photographing wars, riots, and risky situations, but I cover all sorts of news’
Gary said about land mines: ‘Before Diana got involved it was almost impossible to get any newspapers to take notice’
Gary, who died after a short illness, is survived by his wife Liz, his son and two grandsons
His close friend Tim Page, renowned for his photographs of the Vietnam War, paid this tribute to him:
‘An inspirational legacy for a raft of budding shooters (photographers). A champion of those in need. The jester in the pack with the ability to laugh when the cards are down.’
Fellow Mail photographer Les Wilson said: ‘Gary went to the most dangerous places without a thought for his own safety. He never followed the pack and went on instinct – and was blessed with the gift of not getting shot.’
Gary, who died after a short illness, is survived by wife Liz, his devoted partner for 30 years, and who is picture editor at the Daily Mail’s ‘Femail’; his son Luke and grandsons Leon and Ashton.
Gary Trotter: born 7 August 1956 – died 15 October 2021.