Friday, November 11, 2005

Patrick Lichfield

There'll be a lot of sadness today at the sudden death, aged 66, of Lord Lichfield, the brilliant photographer, no-nonsense talker and (incidentally) first cousin of the Queen of England.

His photo-artistry was nothing short of superb - and I'm not just talking about the Unipart calendar. His lighting and poses were always hugely creative and often stunning. I remember an almost shocking black-and-white portrait of Barry Humphries (he of "Dame Edna" fame) with his head poking out of a toilet.

Other than the fact that his one-time father-in-law owned Ely Lodge in Fermanagh, his Irish connections are practically zero, and yet - though I wouldn't necessarily approve fully of his lifestyle - there's a lot for us all to take to heart:

Born into vast riches, he could have bummed along on the huntin'/shootin'/fishin' circuit, yet he chose to take a job as a photographer's assistant for 3 quid a week in 1962. While others indulged their senses as their ancestral piles fell to rack and ruin, Lichfield opened Shugborough to the public and made it a viable business. Although his close relationship to the queen did him no harm, he made it to the top of his profession through talent, not birth.

Take away any prejudice (justified or otherwise) you might have against the aristocracy, and you have the heart of what made Lichfield Big - he didn't let his background enslave him, and he dared to be his own man. Ulster could do with a lot of that.


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