Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A paparazzo's farewell

big australia

This coming Friday afternoon at Sydney’s Bondi Pavilion, friends and family of the late Sydney photographer Peter Carrette will gather to pay their last respects to a well-loved member of Australia’s media community. Sixty three-year old Carrette died over the weekend at his Bondi apartment/office from a suspected heart attack, almost two years to the day that another Sydney paparazzo, Dave Morgan, died in his sleep at the age of just 53. Much will be made on Friday of UK-born Carrette’s career, which spanned five decades, kicking off in a Fleet Street darkroom when he was just 15, traversing various war zones before settling into celebrity photography in Australia - with a bang. In 1969, Carrette authored what has been described as “the most audacious, arguably the most invasive, picture in Australian photo-journalism”, international sales for which reportedly netted his then employer just US$18,000 (US$104,000 in today’s currency): an image of a comatose Marianne Faithfull inside the intensive care unit at Sydney's St Vincents Hospital. Faithfull had been in town visiting her then boyfriend Mick Jagger while he was shooting Ned Kelly, allegedly caught him in the arms of another woman and overdosed on heroin. "Everyone wanted the picture - I went and got the picture" Carrette told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2005. In order to do so, he dressed in a doctor’s coat rented from the Elizabethen Theatre Trust and sneaked into the building. It might have gotten Carrette kicked out of the Australian Journalist's Association, but it's the stuff of Gonzo legend really.

the sydney morning herald

Before any official eulogies begin, some of Carrette’s mates, at once his colleagues and competitors, have already given him one touching tribute.

Once word spread of Carrette's death on Monday morning, they rallied together outside his Bondi apartment at the same breakneck speed at which they normally scramble to descend on any major news story or celebrity sighting. 

Then, a cadre of some of Australia’s most successful freelance photographers including Guy Finlay, Patrick Rivière, Ross Hodgson, Sam Wordley and Malcolm Ladd, formed an impromptu guard of honour to salute their fallen brother as he left the building for the final time (below).

Using their powerful zoom lenses as makeshift swords, they turned the lenses skywards for once, to cross them over Carrette’s body as it was carried out to the funeral director's hearse on a stretcher, covered in white lilies.

“It’s our guild, it's our union, it’s our way of saying goodbye to Peter” said one. 

Vale Peter Carrette.

both images: supplied to frockwriter by big australia


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