Chris Ware was a soft spoken gentle man. He was born in 1900 in Kent and I met him in 1971 when I started work for the Keystone Press Agency.
He had stories of travel around the world and around Europe where he knew many Royal Families and photographed most of them.
He told me that when he was 14 years old he had been given a Kodak camera by his mother. He took that camera out daily with him on the morning milk round that he had. As the horse drawn milk float moved through the woods near Biggin Hill in Kent the keen eyed 14-year-old photographer spotted that a bi plane from the newly formed air force had crashed in the woods. He approached the soldier who was on duty guarding the downed plane and asked if he could have permission to take a picture, ‘’Go on son’’ said the sentry and Chris photographed the broken bi plane. He sent the picture to the Daily Mirror and according to Chris’s wonderful story the Mirror published the picture on the front page and promised that when he left school there would be job for him on the Daily Mirror.
I have never seen the page or the picture but Chris was such a gentleman one would feel guilty to even believe that he was not telling the truth.
Keystone colleague, photographer Ian Tyas adds:
He was always highly regarded by his boss and editor Bertram Garai and one much talked about event that happened before my arrival was when he photographed a young teenage starlet Elizabeth Taylor.
So the story goes he took her around the sights of London travelling by red double decker buses (Keystone was tight on expenses) and on returning to Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, they got caught in a thunderstorm soaking them both. Chris, ever the gentleman invited her into the features dept in order to dry off and when Bertram popped his head around the door she was sitting on one of the large radiators wearing not a lot, sipping a mug of tea whilst the rest of her clothes were drying around her. Sadly no one photographed that for that would have been priceless.
Being young and keen I was always asking him photographic questions, probably much to his boredom but he never said as much, to the extent that on an assignment photographing the singer Alma Cogan in concert he invited me along, lending one of his prize Rollieflex in order to look the part.
Mme Cogan, seeing this fresh-faced lad with long curly hair amongst the senior photographers of the time, she called me up on stage and ruffled my hair which Chris caught perfectly, and I still have the photo today.
Working and learning with Chris was a delight though we soon became competitive regarding assignments. One such was when Bertram suggested that we should spend a long weekend and do a feature at a nudist camp which was becoming the vogue in the late 60’s.
Of course, we both volunteered but Chris got the assignment on seniority. On arriving at the reception, he was greeted by a lovely naked young woman and told to undress in a room opposite and place his clothes into a metal cupboard. On entering Chris was surprised that there were no privacy screens to undress so he opened the door wide and used that to spare his blushes. Adjusting the straps on his cameras to their longest he gingerly stepped outside and thoroughly enjoyed the next three days to the extent that on returning home to Richmond, he immediately took off all his clothes and wandered around the house and garden in naked freedom to the amusement of his wife and no doubt the neighbours.
He was not only one of the ‘great’ photographers but also a very talented artist.