His Life

From the obituary by Patrick Curry

Ron Reid was born in Western New South Wales. He took his first photographs at the age of 13 with a Kodak Bantam camera; they are still vivid and fresh. Leaving home at 15, he was educated as a first class engineer of motor-ships, and over the next 14 years rose to the position of chief engineer of ocean-going cargo ships, tankers and bulk carriers.

In 1966, however, he abandoned both Australia and this career for photography and photojournalism in England. He began recording striking images of young people, particularly in and around the msuic scene, which vividly express the freedom and hope of those years. Reid shared many of their values, and soon became a lifelong advocate of vegetarianism, ecology, sexual liberation and non-coercive spiritual values (when the last were once described as pagan, he was delighted). His pictures of the early Glastonbury Festivals are unique, and have been collected into a book; a portrait of John Lennon too, among many others, has been widely admired and reproduced. Working as unpaid chief engineer, he was also instrumental in preparing and maintaining the first Rainbow Warrior for Green peace.

In more recent years, Reid was the house photographer for The Marquee, in London, and official phtographer for the Monster Raving Loony Party. On his beloved bicycle, he became a fixture around Portobello Road, in West London, and he lovingly recorded the area’s street life as well as its annual festivites at Carnival time. Camera Press provided the facilities to store and market 14,000 of his photographs, which pleased him immensely.

Nonetheless, the harsh new social climate of the 1980s and ’90s was hard on Reid, and he sometimes grew depressed about the rapacious appetites of consumer society, together with its authoritarian and reactionary leaders. At the time of his death he was looking forward to returning to Australia, which he believed had changed in such a way that it now had room for someone like him. Sadly, he never got the chance to find out.

Reid was a unique character, a very social and idealistic person who thought the best of everyone (except for the Pope, whom he hated, and drivers of large and expensive motor cars). He was loved, and will be missed by many.

Ron Reid was born on the 30th July 1933 and died on the 11th March 1997.