Ian Wright’s 50 year career as a photo journalist was inspired by his fascination with a picture taken of himself and parents by a photographer with a parrot on his shoulder, who plied his trade on the pier at Blackpool, England during the family’s summer holiday in 1950. Nine years later, Ian was entered into the HRH the Duke Of Edinburgh’s Awards Scheme for school children where part of the criteria was to build a portfolio of photographs. When the Duke came to Ian’s hometown of Darlington to present the first year’s awards, Ian was allowed to join the other professional press photographers to photograph His Royal Highness.
One year later, at age 15, Ian got a job as a dark room boy, at the town’s major newspaper, The Northern Echo. His duties consisted of sweeping floors and making tea for 19s/11d per week. One day, Ian was given the opportunity to photograph a breaking story, because all the staff photographers were on other assignments. His photo landed on the front page and he was promoted to photographer. Since Ian was the only staff member who knew the names of all the emerging pop groups, he was awarded the position of photographer for a new supplement, “The Teenage Special” Too young to drive, Ian slung all the heavy photographic equipment over his shoulders and took the bus or his bicycle to the concert venues. Between the years of 1961 and 1963 Ian photographed every major and rising star that visited the Northeast, including: Ella Fitzgerald, Peter Ustinov and Chubby Checker, Rex Harrison on the set of My Fair Lady & Elizabeth Taylor visiting the set of Beckett. He
In 1963, he photographed the relatively unknown Beatles on their first UK tour when they were fifth on the bill and later that year on November 22, when the curtain opened on the now famous fab four at the precise moment JFK was shot in Dallas.
1964 was an extremely busy year for rising pop stars and Ian was on hand to photograph their eager and unsure faces, including, Gene Pitney, Marianne Faithfull, The Kinks, Roy Orbison, Dave Clark Five, Sandi Shaw, Adam Faith and the first UK tour of the Rolling Stones.
In 1965, Ian continued to photograph every concert and performer including Tom Jones on the night of his debut in a major venue as the replacement for P.J. Proby who had been banned for repeatedly splitting his trousers onstage. Charlie Chaplin was given an honorary Bachelor Of Arts degree at Durham University and Ian captured the moment on film. Ian photographed Gerry Dorsey on the evening his name was changed to Englebert Humperdink.
By 1966 many of the artists in Ian’s earlier photographs, had risen to stardom. Because Ian had established a great rapport with the performers, his images now reveal a new self assuredness both on the part of the photographer and the artists. Pictures of Mick Jagger no longer depict a naive teenager and instead show a seasoned professional. Photographs of successive Rolling Stones concerts exhibit the beginnings of the showmanship that has kept them on top for more than 40 years.
In 1967, Ian was sent to photograph the UK debut performance Ike & Tina Turner and the unknown Jimi Hendrix & The Experience, performing in the basement pub of a local hotel to an audience of 250. The paper’s legendary editor, Harold Evans left the Northern Echo to become editor of the Sunday Times in London. Ian followed and worked as an international photojournalist for the Times stationed in Japan, India and the United States where he indulged his lifelong passion for playing cricket in his leisure time. His photographs of every celebrity and news maker were syndicated to major newspapers and magazines over the world, including Stern, Paris Match, Newsweek, Time, Look and Life. In 1980, Ian was held prisoner by a bow and arrow army, during a coup d’etat in the New Hebrides. Ian’s photographs of Diana and Charles’s wedding, as well as the Duke & Duchess Of York’s wedding, made front pages worldwide. He photographed numerous overseas royal tours and political events. In 1977 Ian was sent to Paris to photograph the temperamental Nuryev who didn’t show up for his photo call. Not to be denied, Ian simply bought a ticket to that evening’s performance, sneaked into the orchestra pit and got the only picture of Nuryev performing as Peirot The Clown before President Mitterrand.
Throughout the 1980s Ian continued to cover major news stories throughout the world and was commissioned by the BBC Radio Times to create portraits of stars who had been invited to appear in the Royal Command Performances, including: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. Dean Martin, Bob Hope, Larry Hagman, Liberace, Danny Kaye, Fred Astaire and many others. The Sunday Times sent Ian to photograph countless fascinating people including, Alfred Hitchcock, the creators of Superman, Jerry Seagul and Joe Schuster who took him to their Brentwood home to show the original studios where Superman was born, legendary songwriter Sammy Kahn who used one of his Oscars as a doorstop for the bathroom and had his and her Rolls Royces with license plates, “Earns” and “Spends.” Ian photographed Bugs Bunny’s creator Chuck Jones at his home on stilts in the Hollywood Hills and Dr. Charles Richter at his home in Altadena, California atop the San Andreas Fault. Meanwhile, Ian was named president of The Hollywood Cricket Club.
During the 1990s Ian and Sir Harold Evans both become Professors of Journalism and Mass Communications at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where Ian taught public speaking, presentation and photography.
Ian and his wife currently reside in Las Vegas, are co-travel editors of Trends Magazine and travel worldwide giving lectures about his career.