My friend Glynn

Glynn Griffiths my wonderful friend, a friend as close as a brother, my touchstone                     in all matters of life, has died. Glynn was 67 and leaves behind his                beloved daughter Georgia and Annie his soulmate.

Brian's book launch day by Brian harris__1010038

Glynn at my book launch in the Hoop and Grapes pub just off Fleet Street, London, May 2016

 

Glynn had just started out on the next stage of his eventful life. He had his sculpture studio in Cheltenham where he made so many of his impossible dreams involving mother-earth and man-made come to life.

He recently bought a campervan before buying ‘Haddie’ his beautiful house boat moored at Hebden Bridge. For the first time in many years he had his entire ‘Art Book’ collection out of packing cases and on shelves waiting to be read….in short Glynn was chilled out and happy.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths with his daughter Georgia at his Exhibition – ‘Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, Mayfair London.

 

I knew Glynn for nearly 30 years since he came to this country from his native South Africa with his wife Annie back in the mid 1980’s. He came from Jagersfontein a small town in the Free State and trained as a photographer on the Cape Times. Although his yearning was for the Veldt of South Africa, he was a British subject, and proud of his family roots in South Wales.

 

Glynn Griffiths in 1997 ?

Glynn in the Canary Wharf Indy offices in the 1990’s

 

Glynn was an established photographer of some note in SA and upon arriving in London he had little trouble getting photographic assignments from the British press based then in Fleet Street. He started ‘shifting’ for the London Evening Standard while living with Annie in a campervan parked up on the South Bank in the centre of London. Before long a photo editor recognised Glynn’s ‘artistic photographic’ talents and suggested that his style of photography would be more suited to the newly launched ‘Independent’ newspaper.

Glynn Crossroads squater camp BH8_0624

Glynn was taken aboard the fledgling ‘Indy’ first as a freelance and then onto the staff. He covered the usual gamut of assignments for a daily national newspaper: portraits, hard news, overseas stories and soft features.

Following the Kings Cross fire tragedy where over 30 people died Glynn made one his most definitive images of Kwasi Afari Minta, who was severely burnt but survived. The picture won Glynn a first prize in the prestigious World Press Photo Awards.

Kwasi Afari Minta

In 1988, he covered the Clapham rail crash close to his then home in south London where 35 passengers died. His powerful picture was the first to cover the entire front page of the paper, Glynn had well and truly arrived and made his mark. He became known for his quiet observational intelligent photography and was trusted to make ‘something’ from nothing. In October 1989, he was sent to cover the San Francisco earthquake where over 60 died and thousands were injured. During just a matter of hours on the ground he produced a fine coverage resulting in a front-page news picture and a back-page photo spread.

Glynn covered the transitional elections in Namibia and South Africa. He spent time on Mount Athos communing with the monks and making a fine set of quiet contemplative images there but perhaps Glynn’s most recognised and almost certainly his most favoured photograph was of Nelson Mandela at his final election rally in Cape Town during the first all-race South African elections in April 1994.

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Nelson Mandela photographed by Glynn and published by Gerry Brakus in The New Statesmen in 2013

 

Glynn was one of the sweetest most charming of men in the tough world of news photography. He made friends with most that he met…I have never heard a bad word against the man, few can be as well liked in our business.

xThe Indy Guys in B&W at the Kalamazoo Club by Brian Harris 190915_1008453

Glynn Griffiths on the left, with on the back row, David Sandison, myself Brian Harris, Mykel Nicolaou, and Guy Simpson and Laurie Lewis in front…photographed by my son Jacob S. Harris at the Kalamzoo Club in London.

Independent Newspaper Photographers night out. 29 Oct 2015

Photograph of Glynn with his Independent Newspaper photographer friends at one of our London based memory lane evenings. L-R: Back row Tim Sanders the Indy cartoonist, Nick Turpin, John Voos, Glynn Griffiths,member of the band,Craig Easton in glasses. Front row: Laurie Lewis, Brian Harris, David Sandison, Kay Richardson, Guy Simpson and Tom Pilston…photographic selfie made by precariously balancing my very expensive Leica M9 on a wine bottle.

Laurie, Glynn, Guy and John Nov 2016 -

A charming quiet evening in an Italian eatery in Camden, London with Laurie Lewis on left, Glynn Griffiths, Guy Simpson and John Voos…I’m behind the camera

Independent Newspaper Photographers night out. 29 Oct 2015

Glynn and John Voos catching up at yet another photographers night out in London

A collection of photographs showing Glynn top left at the 30th Indy Foreign desk bash at the Frontline Club, with David Sandison at my book launch, at a gallery gig in east London where Glynn showed off his major piece made from nails and scorched wood and meetin’ and greetin’ at yet another opening…

After leaving the Indy in the late 1990’s to once again pursue a freelance career Glynn took up freelance picture editing and left London with his family to live in Cheltenham.

Glynn Griffiths Solo Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery,

Glynn Griffiths Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery, Cheltenham, England. Work by the artist Glynn Griffiths

Glynn Griffiths Solo Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery,

Glynn Griffiths Solo Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery,

Specimen 1101, Beech, polypropylene rod, pyrographic markings at the Parabola Art Gallery, Cheltenham, England. Work by the artist Glynn Griffiths 

Glynn Griffiths Solo Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery,

Glynn Griffiths Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery, Cheltenham, England. 

Glynn became frustrated with the limitations as to what he could achieve visually just by using a camera…photography per se began to bore him, photography was merely the means to an end and the end became the motive for Glynn’s next endeavour.

In his early 60’s Glynn went back to school…to Wimbledon College of Arts where he studied for an MA in Sculpture. His work involving ‘mother nature and handmade product’ was challenging to the uninitiated. His references were the deserts of his homeland in South Africa, he was excited about dry bones, a feather, a scrap of wood or iron weathered by the elements which he used in assembly’s contrasting with Perspex, cable ties, nails and hardware bought from his local store.

He sold several pieces, one piece made to order for a client in America and more through various galleries in London and Cheltenham. In the mid 2000’s he was awarded the Clifford Chance prize and exhibited in their Canary Wharf offices receiving much praise for the scope of his work.

Glynn is seen below installing his work in the plush Canary Wharf offices of Clifford Chance…photographed by David Sandison ©

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths with his daughter Georgia at his Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

 

In the mid 2000’s when both Glynn and myself were going through our own personal crisis we both talked our problems through with long conversations as he commuted by motorway from Cheltenham to London…I called them our M4 chats. We started a photo-exchange where once a week we would make a photograph, print it and write something on the print about our thoughts for that day. We kept this going for over two years and I have over 100 original Glynn Griffiths photographs and drawings all signed and annotated…some of my most precious possessions.

The photographs below are all © owned by Glynn and are reproduced in the form as presented to me, ie a small image on an A4 size piece of paper, hence the large amount of white showing at top and bottom of image.

BH8_0722BH8_0655BH8_0649BH8_0647BH8_0644BH8_0643BH8_0640

 

 

 

I asked Glynn to help me photo edit my auto-biographical book in 2014-5. We spent several days in the cold of my garage going through hundreds of proof prints before getting my selection down from and unmanageable 2000 images to an almost manageable 3-400 photographs.

Brian Harris book editing by Picture Editor Glynn Griffiths

Glynn editing down the thousands of images to a manageable 400 plus for my book…we finally got it down to less than 200.

Some months later myself Glynn and designer Professor Phil Cleaver spent many 18 hour days and nights moving images and words around on screen and in hard copy before finishing my project at the printers. Not a bad word was said, not an argument, just complete calm…without Glynn I would still be shuffling my work about completely lost in the confusion of editing.

Brian Harris book editing with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al D

Glynn and ‘pooch’ editing Brian Harris’s book ’…and then the Prime Minister hit me…’ with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al Design

Brian Harris print day for '...and then the Prime Minister hit m

Glynn at Geoff Neal Printers in Feltham, west London checking the print quality

 

Glynn had many who loved him: fellow photographers, editors, photo editors, his family and friends in South Africa, his drinking pals in Cheltenham, Glynn was not a drinker – preferring a half pint of beer or a glass of red wine with some good conversation and fine home cooking

Glynn Griffiths in Thaxted.

Glynn Griffiths enjoying our wonderful Lasagne and several bottles of Montepulciano at our home in Thaxted…watched by his new best friend, Thelma

Glynn Griffiths and Thelma Niv 2014 5326

Glynn mellowing in our home with Thelma…the other cat

 

…Glynn was the arch polymath, he was a photographer, an artist, a sculptor, a cartoonist, a photo editor

 

Some of Glynn’s wonderfully dry wit showing through in his cartoons

 

…he could mend things and make things… only a month ago producing a fantastic sculptural piece consisting of a hill of bicycles, seen below, that occupied a roundabout in Cheltenham to celebrate a Round Britain Cycle Race.

Bikes by Glynn

Glynn was just so many things…he was in fact a renaissance man through and through, with his ‘hippy’ clothes and ponytail, his grey beard and funny hat.

GLYNN GRIFFITHS BLUE BH2_0084 Striking a pose as W.G. Grace

Glynn Griffiths

…and with his ‘Pooch’ at his studio in Cheltenham. Photograph by Tom Pilston ©

…and seen here photographed by David Sandison in 2009…at Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon, as part of the PARK09 exhibition

Only a couple of weeks back he came down from Hebden Bridge in his motorhome to help me celebrate my 65th birthday in Southend-on-Sea with my partner Nikki and my son Jacob. We enjoyed the ‘best fish and chips in the world’ and walked the ‘prom’…we enjoyed the penny arcades and Glynn was happy.

Brians 65th birthday Southend 2017_L1013817Brians 65th birthday Southend 2017_L1013805Brians 65th birthday Southend 2017_L1013801

Glynn with Nikki, myself and my son Jacob in Southend-on-Sea for my 65th birthday…on the prom prom prom…and in the penny arcades…September 2017

He followed us home to Thaxted and we spent the night putting some red wine away and the world to rights…in the morning I cooked breakfast, bacon, toast, eggs and baked beans. Glynn asked me why I stored my tins of baked beans upside down in the store cupboard. I replied that if the tins were upside down in store, when you opened them the beans were at the lid end and they all came out in one hit rather than having the hunt the last of the beans out with a spoon. He thought that was one of the most wonderful of ideas and in his last text to me a few days later he thanked Nikki and I for our hospitality but most of all he thanked us for showing him how to store his baked beans, he said it’s always wonderful to learn something new at 67!!

On the morning of the 16th of September I helped Glynn pack up his campervan with a case of Adnams Claret and a couple of large A2 size photographic prints from me to him as a present for all his hard work on my book. He said he was finally going to get around to reading it now he had the space and time. He drove out of the car park in Thaxted en route to the Tate Britain in London where he could park up for the weekend for free…and that was the last time I saw him.

 

My dear friend Glynn, I will miss you so much but I am privileged to have known you…you lovely gentle guy. RIP.

Brian Harris Book LaunchGlynn signature BH8_0688 copy

 

 

 

About brianharrisphotographer

I have been an editorial photographer since 1969. After working for various 'Fleet Street' press agencies and local papers in the east end of London I joined The Times of London where I worked around the world until 1985. I joined The Independent Newspaper in London in 1986 and stayed with them until 1999. I'm still working as a photographer, generating my own story ideas which I sell to the international magazine market. I also contribute generic stock images to various photo libraries. I live near Cambridge in eastern England.
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10 Responses to My friend Glynn

  1. Beautifully written – invoking so many wonderful memories when Glynn used my small back room as his London “home” and we shared many a bottle of red wine and he made his first “Specimans” in my garden! Seems a long journey since then, seeing some of his pieces in his Cheltenham studio last year – but not long enough – will miss him dearly.

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  2. apb62 says:

    That was lovely. You may be interested to hear that we visited Glynn on Haddie the weekend before he died. In his ever generous way he cooked us a lovely meal and we drank a bottle of that claret with him as we chatted into the evening. We all thought it was delicious. We will miss him so much. Thank you for writing what you did. Amanda and Adrian Berry

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  3. apb62 says:

    A very special man. We are still waiting for him to collect the tree he started sculpting in our garden. Now it is a fantastic reminder of him. We have always loved it x

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  4. Orde Eliason says:

    So sorry to learn that the wonderful mensch, Glynn, has passed. Lovely tribute and insights Brian. Many thanks for sharing and please relay condolences to Georgia and Annie. Our paths crossed from his Wimbledon days and it was always enriching to share his wisdom and humor. Will miss the Sage.

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  5. michaelpod says:

    A lovely and moving tribute for a wonderful and talented man. Thank you Brian, I’m still in shock.

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  6. Jack says:

    Thanks so much for this Brian. I worked with Glynn for 3 years and he was such a valued colleague – him working was often the difference between a pleasant and unbearable shift. Always struck me as the one contented person in a routinely miserable office. Sounds like he was as good a friend as he was to work with.

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  7. Rob Bradfield says:

    Today is the 18th of July 2021. In South Africa, we call today Mandela Day. I have only today come across your Blog while attempting to find more info on Glynn. I last contacted him via email or Facebook about four years ago.
    Yes, I come from the same country from which my old friend Glynn originated. He and I both went to the same primary school in Jagersfontein. We sat in the same small classroom for many years in which his mother was one of our teachers. She played the piano very well, and I took piano lessons from her.
    He and I were both in the cubs and the scouts at that time. We lost contact after I had moved to Johannesburg and he had moved to Cape Town. As you say, he was a great person and very well-liked. If ever you want to write a story about him, I know a few people who can assist, including his next-door neighbour at the time, Mary-Lynne Botha (nee Le Barrow) whose father was our scoutmaster at the time. Over and out.

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