Since launching this website, I have been overwhelmed by the reaction to the John Varley Signature Collection.
People from far and wide, including family, friends, colleagues and new acquaintances, have contacted me to praise my grandfather’s incredible body of work. One former colleague said he was staggered every time he saw one of my posts on social media – such is the quality of my granddad’s photographs.
Growing up, my granddad was simply my granddad. He was the fun and active man we played with in the garden. Whether it was football, cricket, rounders…my sister, cousins and I were always entertained when he was around.
We all knew he was a photographer – but it took many years before we realised just what an incredible photographer he had been. There were photographs everywhere at my grandparents’ home – but they were mainly of family and friends. My granddad’s work was mostly stuffed away in boxes in his old dark room, which he had built in the late 1970s. Occasionally, my granddad would look through some of his old photos – particularly if there was something newsworthy in relation to his pictures going on. Now and again you would see him inspecting a photo with his little magnifying glass. He would sometimes present it to us when we were kids – and we would have a quick look at what was probably an iconic image before running off to play!
In 1994, an exhibition was held to mark my granddad’s 60th birthday. Held in Doncaster, his home town, the event was covered by local media, including BBC TV show Look North. During his interview, my granddad was asked which photograph is his favourite from his career. He said, with a smile, ‘I’ll take that one tomorrow.’ And that summed him up – he wasn’t one for dwelling on the past. He enjoyed looking at photographs he had taken but never basked in them.
If you visited his home, there were very few clues about the career he had fashioned. One such clue though was his golden eye trophy – the one he received for winning a World Press Photo Award in 1979. He described it as an ugly trophy but was certainly proud of the recognition it represented. The award was given for his image of legendary sculptor Henry Moore – who was photographed walking among his creations during his 80th birthday exhibition in Bradford. Check out our behind the photos page for more details about how that and other iconic images came about.
When I remember my granddad, I am incredibly proud of the career he had and the legacy he left behind. His secret was that he simply loved taking pictures. He was very passionate about his work – to the point where a day without a picture in the newspaper was a day wasted as far as he was concerned. He was also a constant innovator. He always wanted to do something different; something unique. More often than not, he went the extra mile to take a picture that no one else in the press pack would have even thought of attempting.
I hope everyone continues to enjoy looking through these little pieces of history. And let me know which is your favourite image.
Varley Media is the proud home of the John Varley Signature Collection. Many of the images are available to buy as framed prints. Check out our online store. If you are interested in licensing any of the images for commercial purposes, email firstname.lastname@example.org.