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Photographer who helped launch local newspaper dies aged 92

DEs BlakeA photographer who helped launch a local newspaper after a wedding picture he took was spotted by its founder has died aged 92.

Tributes have been paid to Des Blake, left, who worked on newspapers in Essex after starting his career as an amateur photographer while working at an engineering firm.

Des’s career spanned five decades, during which time he worked on the launch of the Colchester Express.

During its infancy, the Express was even produced from his home before moving into permanent offices in the town.

His introduction to the profession had begun when he joined the town’s camera club and started taking photographs at friends’ weddings.

Des’s daughters Suzanne and Marion told the Colchester Daily Gazette: “In 1956 this brought a knock on our door from Mike Roberts who was an ex-Daily Express journalist from the Midlands, working on a new newspaper in Colchester called the Colchester Express which the Chronicle started up to take on the Essex County Standard. They needed someone who could take photos.

“Dad’s first freelance picture was taken in 1956 and on a 35mm Paz camera, he had already moved on from the old plate cameras.”

They added: “He was determined to make it as a press photographer, and it wasn’t long before we lost our family bathroom at home which Dad turned into a darkroom with the enormous tanks along the bath and water running what seemed day and night and films hanging from a clothes line strung across the ceiling.

“Dad later built a purpose-built darkroom next to the house which meant we could all stop washing in the kitchen sink.”

Des worked with the Colchester Express before it was finally taken over by its rival in 1978.  He continued to work for Essex County Newspapers for nearly 13 years, before he retired in 1991.

Marion and Suzanne said:”He was well-known at Colchester United Football ground in Layer Road as Dad loved to banter with the crowd and would click away getting their photos too.

“Photos abounded back then of dinner dances, bazaars, carnivals and beauty queens, fetes, council meetings – ‘faces sold papers’ was the motto – and of course there were the celebrities and royalty that visited Colchester too, Dad covered them all.

“He became known as the photographer who would get in there, up close, hang off of or just be where everyone else wasn’t to get the photo.”

Des is survived by Suzanne and Marion, nine grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. He outlived his wife Mollie and two other children, Carolyn and Michael.

His funeral took place last Wednesday.

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