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Former daily chief photographer turned law lecturer dies aged 79

Peter TwaitesA former regional daily chief photographer who went on to study law at Oxford and take up a career in academia has died aged 79.

Tributes have been paid to Peter Twaites, pictured left, formerly of the Swindon Advertiser, who also served on the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Journalists during a career which took him across the country.

Peter’s work in the regional press began aged 15 as a darkroom assistant at Birmingham’s Sunday Mercury, but was given a job as a photographer on the newspaper after proving his talents with an Agfa Standard folding plate camera given to him by his parents.

Peter served as a drill instructor during National Service with the Royal Engineers and, because he enjoyed his military life so much, after demob he decided to serve with The Territorial Army, where he was attached to the Parachute Regiment, making 38 parachute jumps.

Returning to the regional press, his work took him to the Wolverhampton Star, the Leicester Mercury and the Bristol Evening World, where he worked alongside playwright Tom Stoppard.

Peter then moved on to the Devizes office of the Advertiser, before winning promotion to the role of chief photographer.

A committed and active NUJ member, he was on the union’s Area Council and the NEC as well as being the FoC of the Wiltshire Newspapers Chapel.

Former colleague Dave Evans, who went on to become the Advertiser’s pictured editor, told the paper: “He was a softly spoken man, who rarely seemed to get ruffled, except when wearing his union hat.

“A passionate member and officer of the National Union of Journalists – I remember standing side by side warming ourselves over a brazier during a long dispute in the 1970s, and subsequently many a bar room during one of his mandatory chapel meetings, for which he was renowned.

“Peter was a skilful photographer, a skill which he later chose to share with university students when leaving the Advertiser.

“He was good company with a sharp wit – probably the reason the photographic department spent so much time with him after work at Mamma’s Kitchen, an Italian restaurant which was too handily placed opposite the Advertiser office.

“We spent a memorable day with Peter during a trip to Epsom Racecourse to cover the Derby.

“Unfortunately a temporary grandstand collapsed in front of us, enabling Peter to grab some shots which were used in many national papers.

“A keen eye for a picture, also a desire to fight for workers’ rights and fair play; the NUJ will be a little more subdued without him.”

Bob Naylor, another former colleague, added: “Peter’s style of leadership as chief photographer was very relaxed, prompting one editor to accuse him of running the photographic department as a co-operative.

“His response was to say that he was the first among equals… and it worked, he led a happy and productive team who would have done anything for him.”

In 1985 Peter decided to leave newspapers and he went to Ruskin College, Oxford, where he studied labour law.

Three years later he went to Cardiff University and studied for a BSc in Law and Politics and he continued there and got an MA for his dissertation on Privacy and the Press.

Peter lectured at Cardiff on media law and photojournalism until he retired at the age of 69.

In 2004 he was awarded a PhD for his thesis “The Professors of Fleet Street” about the early days of photojournalism.

Peter is survived by his wife, Ruth and children Chris and Helen and grandchildren Sam, Jessica and Sophie. He outlived his oldest son, Carl.

Peter’s funeral will be held at West Wilts Crematorium, Semington, at 3.15pm on 14 July.