Daily Mirror photographer John Shenton has died in a scuba-diving accident, aged 55.
John began his working life as a hairdresser in his father’s shop, something that frustrated him as he was passionate about photography. Reading the late Victor Blackman’s columns gave him an interest in the press and he started freelancing. Finding this rewarding, both creatively and financially, he left the shop behind.
Working initially on local papers, he went full time to the Comet in Hitchin, then in 1972 he moved to the Sunday Mirror, where he became a Saturday staffer and full-time freelance for many years. After it made him redundant he moved to the Daily Mirror as full-time freelance.
John had the enviable reputation of being able to produce good pictures from what was often a less-than-perfect story. Always a calm man, he had his fair share of excitement. Once while on the way to a job, he was diverted to the Trafalgar Square poll tax riot. Hardly dressed for it, he immediately realised that other photographers were coming under attack from the crowd so, suited and booted, he placed a Leica round his neck, wandered through looking every inch the tourist and took the pictures that got him nominated for Press Photographer of the Year.
His calmness came to the fore at the Bishopsgate bomb. He was behind the NatWest Tower when the bomb exploded, and as the glass cascaded out of the building, John ducked behind a lamp-post to try to avoid falling shrapnel and calmly photographed the resulting carnage. As he did this, a small, red-hot chunk of the lorry bomb’s engine flew past his ear and smacked into the wall behind him. Later, John picked it up, and carried it on the dashboard of his car as a kind of lucky talisman. Sometimes he would prod it and say, "I wonder if people realise what we go through to get the pictures in their paper".
John was always the type of snapper who was ready to see another feature idea out of what he was doing. Recently, he had a problem with one of his digital cameras. A file of an unrepeatable snatch pic was lost in the memory card. On being told of a file-recovery service in Southampton, John raced down there and had the file recovered. While he was there he shot a quick feature on the file-recovery service for a magazine.
John was one of that rare breed of Fleet Street snappers – a truly likeable bloke, always reliable, always dependable, a first-rate photographer and a first-rate mate. He really will be sorely missed.