I just found out that the Welsh poet Dannie Abse had died last week (28 Sept 2014).
I photographed him back in 2007 and I remember it as one of my fondest shoots.
I was send to his home in north London, to do a portrait for a sensitive story (always me) about a new book of poems and memoirs that he was releasing about his late wife. His wife Joan who he was married to for over 50 years, had died in a car crash in 2005 while he had been driving, he suffered a broken rib. After such a tragic event I expected to find a slightly broken man struggling to deal with the situation but amazingly he had found a path to hope and was full of life!
In those days I was still doing most of my portraits on my medium format Hassleblad 6x6 film camera - 12 shots per roll so no quick-fire approach here and the editors would get pissed off if you shot more than 3-4 rolls as processing was an expensive cost. I remember talking to him throughout the shoot and at one point he erupted with laughter following some (probably poor) joke that I made. Instinctively my Hasselblad clicked loudly and I knew I had got my shot!
Unfortunately this was not the shot that I was sent to take....
Inevitably the shot that was published was a reflective considered portrait of a man coming to term with grief, but strangely I've always thought that this picture would have been a much better and truer illustration of that.
Here is a link to him reading one of his poems -