Search

Blind photographer who grew up in Gants Hill shares story of becoming critically acclaimed snapper

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 March 2019

David Katz gives a talk to students a Wrexham Glyndwr University.

David Katz gives a talk to students a Wrexham Glyndwr University.

Archant

A former Recorder photographer who grew up in Gants Hill and was born legally blind has shared his story of how he defied the odds to build a career snapping world leaders and celebrities across the globe.

Former prime minister Tony Blair plays guitar in a 2002 visit to the Jewish Free School, Harrow. Photo: David KatzFormer prime minister Tony Blair plays guitar in a 2002 visit to the Jewish Free School, Harrow. Photo: David Katz

A former Recorder photographer who grew up in Gants Hill and was born legally blind has shared his story of how he defied the odds to build a career snapping world leaders and celebrities across the globe.

Barack Obama, the Queen, Amy Winehouse and Elton John are among the long list of famous figures David Katz, who grew up in Springfield Drive, has photographed in his decades-long career.

The Recorder spoke to David, who now lives in Israel, about his decision to open up about his visual impairment and his journey from newspaper office junior to Fleet Street photographer.

“I always knew I would do it,” he told the Recorder, on speaking out about being registered blind.

“It was just a question of the right time to do it.”

He added: “Press photography is a very competitive industry and there are always a hundred people behind you who want your job.”

“I wanted the work to speak for itself.”

The 52-year-old was born with ocular albinism, astigmatism, nystagmus and strabismus – conditions which sharply impair his vision and affect his balance.

He first revealed this to the world in a 2017 film he made with Channel 4 called “Through My Lenses”.

“The whole point was to make people who have other disabilities like me aware that ‘there is no such word as can’t,’” he said – a motto his mum would tell him as a young boy and which has inspired him throughout his career.

“People often ask me ‘how can you do this – how do you see?” David said.

“It’s all a matter of perspective.

“Some people have very good eyesight, but they don’t really see anything as they don’t pay attention.

“It really is about what you see when you are taking a photograph – not how far.”

David began his career as a sports photographer on the Romford Recorder, snapping the American Football team the Collier Row Oilers, while also working a full-time job in Ilford.

His first published picture was in the Romford Recorder in 1983 or 1984 – a football team that had just won a cup for which he was paid £8.65.

“It probably cost more to do it than I was paid,” he laughed.

He went to Gearies Primary School, in Waremead Road and described Gants Hill as a “great place to grow up in”.

David quickly moved on to the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror where he was considered to be among the country’s top sports photographers.

Last month the seasoned snapper gave a lecture to a packed hall of students at Wrexham Glyndwr University, in Wales,

He was invited to speak at the university by film and photography student Isabella Nunns, who is also visually impaired, after she saw his film – Through My Lenses – on television.

David said that the event was “special” because of Isabella’s invitation.

“When I launched my film, she got in touch and asked ‘would you come to my university’ – and that was one appointment I wanted to make sure I kept,” he added.

David displayed examples of his work throughout the talk – including Tony Blair playing guitar, a personal project marking the lives of Holocaust survivors and pictures of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

One of the pictures David used to close the talk was that of Alpine skier Menna Fitzpatrick at the 2018 Paralympic Games, who is also a Glyndwr Honorary Fellow.

It portrays Menna – who, like David, is visually impaired – with guide Jennifer Kehoe, celebrating winning gold in the slalom.

“Having photographed somebody like me win a gold medal for Great Britain is a huge career highlight for me,” he said.

Asked what advice he can offer to those early on in their careers as journalists and photographers, he said: “Don’t be taken advantage of”.

He added: “Work hard and just do it – do not wait for it to come to you.”

Find out more and see David’s work here throughmylenses.org/through-my-lenses/

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Romford Recorder

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists