Posted: February 12th, 2017
Former Daily Mirror photographer ALBERT FOSTER died on February 12 , aged 83. His funeral is at 11am on Friday, February 24 at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street [London EC4Y 8AU] followed by a wake from noon at the Punch Tavern, 99 Fleet Street, next door to the church. Albert’s widow Sue has requested no flowers, but donations to the British Heart Foundation (https://www.bhf.org.uk/) for those who would like to.
ALBERT FOSTER was born on November 15, 1933 in Long Ditton, Surrey, though admits “he was conceived in Blythe, Northumberland”. His father was a miner and the family moved south before he was born.
At the age of 15 Albert joined Illustrated Press in the art department. At 18 he was conscripted into the Army, and joined the Royal Signals as a teleprinter operator and then spent time in Kenya. He became a rifleman and was a fine marksman.
After he was demobbed he went to work for he Daily Herald their art dept. He later joined the Mirror art dept and also worked in Manchester.
Albert had a passion for motorcyle racing and even competed in the Isle of Man TT. He and his brother both enjoyed the sport and Albert was the “suicidal passenger” in the sidecar.
Among many other sports and events, Albert also used to cover the grand prix at Brands Hatch. He won Sports Photographer of the Year with a picture of a hare running full stretch beside a racing TT bike.
He joined the Mirror as a staff photographer and for a while worked as their Royal snapper. Over a long and varied career he photographed the great, the good and the not so good, and some of his work can be viewed at http://www.mirrorpix.co.uk/
Albert also spent two years working out of the Mirror’s New York office.
He was the first streaker in the Stab (Stab in the Back, the nickname of the Mirror’s local pub The White Hart) and there was a photograph on the pub wall of Bert just in his shirt, no trousers.
He retired from Mirror at the age of 55. He had spells working on Today and the Glasgow Record before going to cinematography college to learn how to make documentaries, which was another of his passions.
He later retired completely and enjoyed time in La Cala, Spain where he owned a property. He married Sue in 2003 at St Bride’s Church.
(Thanks to Alan Olley.)
Memories of Albert: MAGGIE HALL – Shortly after I started my three-year stint in the New York bureau Albert pitched-up. It was 1980 and he’d taken a year off from The Mirror. Of course I knew him in London but his arrival in the Big Apple marked the beginning of a long and wonderful friendship.
The memories are many but here are three that will tell everyone (who didn’t know him) something about Albert the first-class Fleet Street operator – and Albert the man.
Just about his first words when he came into the bureau office (in the New York News building on 42nd Street) were: “Where’s the tea?” The teabags were duly pointed out. He sniffed disapprovingly. But nothing like the snort that greeted the absence of a teapot. The next day the office was suitably kitted-out with “proper” tea and a classic “Brown Betty”.
I can’t for the life of me remember where he managed to find a traditional British teapot. But he did – by tracking one down, in the hurly-burly of the New World, in the same persistent manner in which he would nail an impossible story. A prime example of his talent in that category is highlighted in the final memory (below.)
Albert was noted (in the nicest possible way) for knowing what he wanted – with no substitutes tolerated. There was quite a list. I never saw him touch any alcohol other than red wine. But the one that tops my list is his “whole tomato” need. Make that demand.
Whenever we ate together – either on the road or in New York, either in a diner or a vaguely fancy restaurant – and he ordered a salad or a dish that contained or was topped with a tomato, his request was always the same. “I want a whole tomato – not one sliced or diced. A whole tomato.” And every time his order arrived I would quickly give the cut-up tomato a glance and know what question was about to be aimed at the waiter or waitress. As in: “What is it sport, you don’t understand about a whole tomato?” When Albert left New York to return to London we threw him a farewell party that had “whole tomatoes” as a central theme.
As for the work he did in the States, alongside the myriad of yarns he covered, he bagged a world exclusive that ended up – after being splashed in the Mirror – in newspapers and magazines around the globe. He scooped a whole lot of American journos by getting to meet notorious murderer Charles Manson.
On his own initiative, and with the odds stacked against him, Albert started months of secret letter-writing and phone calls in a bid to get all involved – i.e. the prison authorities and, of course, the cult-killer himself – to agree to the “never going to happen” meeting.
Albert’s approach to landing the opportunity to focus his camera on one of the world’s most evil killers taught me a timely lesson – never assume you know what the situation is, ask the question… you might be surprised at the answer.
Report and picture from FRANK THORNE
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