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Remembering Stuart Heydinger Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

25 November 2019

British photojournalist Stuart Heydinger has died at the age of 92.

Born in Kingston upon Thames, south west London, in 1927, the son of a soldier in the 12th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. The family was posted to Gibraltar and Yorkshire before moving to Folkestone on the Kent coast in 1935, where he attended the garrison primary school.

As a young teen, Heydinger began drawing caricatures and at 17 got a job with the local paper as a trainee. He worked his way up the ladder as a cartoonist, a reporter and finally a photographer.

He was deployed to Palestine in 1945 for his national service before returning to Folkestone and his job as a photojournalist. He joined the International Photo News agency in 1953 then the Times in 1957.

Heydinger was the Times's best photographer in 1957 so he was the one the paper sent to the South Pole to capture Sir Edmund Hillary and Dr. Vivian Fuchs shaking hands after the first trans-Antarctic crossing since Ernest Shackleton's doomed attempt 40 years earlier.

A 6-foot-one former paratrooper, Heydinger had a trick up his long sleeve. Along with a portable darkroom, he had secretly set up a prototype photo-transmitting machine before flying to the South Pole in a U.S. Navy Neptune aircraft equipped with skis and 16 additional booster jets strapped to its fuselage because the thin summer polar ice would not support the usual wheeled aircraft.

A 6-foot-one former paratrooper, Heydinger had a trick up his long sleeve.

He got the shot and, during the festivities, developed the film and made prints. He sent three photos back to London using his transmitter, scooping his rivals, one of whom complimented him by breaking his nose in a fight.

In 1960 he joined The Observer as chief photographer. There the team was encouraged to tell stories with their images and Heydinger blossomed.

His images documented the human cost of the Algerian and Indo-China wars of 1962 and he produced a 12-page color feature for the Observer magazine on the conflict in Borneo in 1964.

In Kashmir in 1965, as he was wounded by shrapnel in a rocket attack by an Indian Mig fighter, his cameras fell into in the Tawi river. To preserve the film he carried his Nikons in a bucket of water for 12 hours to the first photo lab he ran across.

He also made a name for himself taking portraits of Doris Lessing and Muhammad Ali and covering soccer matches, Wimbledon and the Monte Carlo Grand Prix.

He left what he called "the best news photographer's job in Fleet Street" in 1966. He was, he said, burned out.

He freelanced until 1968 when he travelled on assignment to Biafra for the Daily Telegraph. The carnage he witnessed, especially of children, affected him profoundly. He retired from photojournalism.

He visited the Basque country in the early 1970s, drawing, painting and photographing people. And in 1979 he moved to Germany where he photographed for theatres and shot landscapes across northern Germany.

In 1949 Heydinger married Doreen Baker with whom he had a son, Van. The marriage ended in divorce in the 1980s. He is survived by his son.

The Guardian has published a gallery of his work for the Observer as well as a Letter from Peter Crookston, who was his colleague on the paper.

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