Wed, 24 July, 2024

David Graves

Posted: June 9th, 2022

VETERAN People photographer DAVE GRAVES died on June 9 [2022], aged 82, following a stroke.

Following his funeral, his daughter-in-law Julie has asked us to thank all those friends and colleagues who attended the memorial service at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Manor Park, East London on July 1, and helped raise £517 for Cancer Research UK. Said Julie: “I bet Dave was looking down and regretting this was the one time when he didn’t have a camera to capture the scene.”

A packed congregation at the funeral service reflected the many aspects of Dave’s life – photographer, musician, magistrate, school governor, church worker, West Ham fan, husband, father and grandfather.
Mirror group colleagues who were there included Mike Maloney, Brendan Monks, Alan Olley, Tony Purnell and Jim Sollis. Many photographers from other national newspapers also attended.

At a reception following the funeral, People columnist Plain John Smith recalled some memories of working with Dave, who always kept the boot of his car filled with a myriad of “props” ranging from walking sticks to old war medals in case they were needed to add the finishing touch to one of his fun photos.

Said Plain John: “Dave and I were sent to see pop star Alvin Stardust, one of whose records had gone to number one in the charts. Dave was taking the pictures in Hyde Park and he snapped Alvin in a variety of poses, sitting on a park bench, leaning against a tree, feeding the ducks. But something wasn’t quite working. Suddenly, Dave dashed back to his car and returned holding a top hat. “Here you go, governor, try that for size,” said Dave, handing it to Alvin.

The somewhat bemused singer stood there wearing the hat while Dave fired off a couple of shots. “That’ll do me, governor,” said Dave, putting away his cameras with a satisfied smile. On our way back to the car I turned on Dave and inquired incredulously: “Alvin Stardust in a bloody top hat? What the hell was that all about?”

“That, Smithy, is the picture,” said Dave. “And not only is it the picture, I bet it will also be the headline for your story.”
“What headline is that?” I asked.
“Well, it’s obvious, innit?” said Dave.
He was right, of course.

Plain John concluded:
“Many of you who are here today to remember Dave may not be familiar with the ways in which newspapers work, so I should explain that the relationship between reporters and photographers is not always an easy one. “Controlled contempt” is the phrase that springs to mind. But if you were going on an assignment and needed a photographer who knew his job, believed in teamwork, would never let you down and would always leave you laughing, then Gravesie was the greatest.”

[His funeral service is at noon on Friday, July 1, at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 146, Little Ilford Lane, Manor Park, London E12 5PJ, and then City of London Cemetery, Aldersbrook Road, London, E12 5DQ, followed by a reception at the Aldersbrook Bowls Club, 34, Aldersbrook Road, E12 5DY.]

Plainjohn Smith writes:

Dave Graves was not Fleet Street’s most sensitive photographer.

He cared little for the subtleties of a finely lit portrait or a moody landscape. Feet always firmly planted in his East End roots, his focus was the realities and oddities of everyday life.

“Gravesie” went about his business with an infectious chirpiness, whether nursing a telescopic lens behind a Premiership touchline on a freezing February night, or carting his cameras alongside me across the burning desert sands of California’s Death Valley, insisting that my intro to this sweltering saga should be the homely “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.”

Brought up in east London with four brothers, his Fleet Street career began in the London bureau of Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspapers, where he acquired the nickname Digger Graves. When he joined The People, it provided the perfect platform for his quirky talents.

Fun photos were Dave’s speciality. The boot of his car was stuffed full of assorted headgear – brightly coloured wigs, football scarves, fake noses, joke spectacles and a myriad of other props that accompanied his cameras as the tools of his trade, brought into play when a picture required a chuckle factor. You never knew when a perkily placed bowler hat or nifty straw boater might provide the finishing touch to one of his offbeat offerings.

Bubbling over with ideas, his anarchic photographic assembly line involved skateboarding rabbits, surfboard riding dogs, monkeys playing football in England shirts, and an Indian snake charmer coaxing a pyjama cord into quivering life. He caught coppers forming a conga line at the Notting Hill Carnival, and comedian Benny Hill with a halo round his head surrounded by a sinful bevy of Hill’s Angels.

His ingratiating and artful approach frequently nudged people out of their comfort zones, so a Page Three pin-up could be persuaded to dress up as a circus clown, and a bunch of grey haired pensioners in a Leicestershire village could be cajoled into squeezing into their old World War Two Home Guard uniforms to provide a final Dad’s Army parade.

Dave and I shared many an adventure on the road. We raced across the deserts of New Mexico to visit a Mexican housewife whose kitchen had become a much visited shrine after she noticed the face of Jesus bubbling up through the surface of a dinner time pancake. In Texas we tracked down the last surviving member of the Bonnie and Clyde gang, Dave urging the erstwhile and aged outlaw to try to look a bit more menacing as he pointed his Colt 45 revolver at Dave’s wide angle lens.

Gravesie’s boundless energy led to him organising cabaret nights to support the Man of The People Fund, raising thousands of pounds for the sick and needy. He was dubbed “Lew Graves” for his production skills, turning office secretaries into a high kicking chorus line and nurturing the hidden talents of other staff members who could play the trumpet, strum a guitar, sing a song or recite a pithy monologue.

And the musical accompaniment to these raucous evenings? Why, Digger Graves and his band, of course, with Dave gleefully pounding the drums.

Away from Fleet Street, his frenetic and gregarious life continued. He loved pubs, Jaguar cars and West Ham football club.
Care in the community? Dave was your man. He qualified as a magistrate, was a school-board member, and played an active part in his local Catholic Church.

A devoted family man, he was at his happiest when laughter filled his Wanstead home as he and his wife Sheila entertained their eight grandchildren.

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