Dave Caulkin, Associated Press photographer, dies at 77

LONDON — Dave Caulkin, a retired Associated Press photographer who captured the iconic moment ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won the 1984 Olympic gold medal, has died. He was 77 and had cancer.

Known for being in the right place at the right time with the right aim, London-based Caulkin has covered everything from the conflict in Northern Ireland to the Rolling Stones and the British Royal Family in a career that spanned four decades. . But one of his most famous images was of Torvill and Dean, their lips parted as if ready to kiss, as they skated on Ravel’s “Bolero.”

“This photo is the history of the games,” said Dusan Vranic, the AP’s Middle East photo chief. “That’s what we’re trying to do – have the photo of the event that will go down in history.”

Later in his career, Caulkin was part of an AP team that won the Pulitzer Prize for News Photography for his coverage of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Caulkin’s drive to help young photographers is what many who followed him remember of a man they considered a mentor. He taught them, in essence, how to tell a story in one picture.

But it would also help. He lent lenses to stringers so that they could learn their trade, teach their colleagues how to use new technologies and offer the benefit of his experience to beginners.

Longtime Reuters photographer and editor Russell Boyce said he appreciated that advice, especially when they were covering the conflict in Northern Ireland and Caulkin nudged him and told him it was time to go. .

“If you waited too long, two things would happen,” Boyce said. “The first is that you would be beaten because your competitors would move the image in front of you, and the first image wins. And two, things would get more and more dangerous as the night progressed. And if you isolate yourself, it’s actually very dangerous.

But the advice was also personal, Boyce said.

Once, as the pair were driving to a mission, Caulkin told Boyce to think about his family before rushing to the next conflict, confident he wished he’d spent less time away from his wife. and his daughters.

Born on March 11, 1945 in Castleford, in the north of England, Caulkin was an only child. The family then moved to London and then to Maidenhead, west of the capital.

After leaving school early, he worked briefly at Heathrow Airport, his widow, Jean, said. But Caulkin became addicted to photography after his father gave him a camera. He somehow landed a job in the AP darkroom and worked his way up from there.

While in Sheffield for the 1966 World Cup, Caulkin met his future wife at a cafe. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, recalls Jean. “He was persistent,” she said simply.

The couple married in 1968 and had two daughters and four grandchildren.

“I wish he was a wildlife photographer,” she said. “But he didn’t have the patience for that.”

Considered a phenomenal storyteller, Caulkin began his career at a time when press service photographers had to overcome a myriad of technical challenges. There were the limitations of film and cameras, the need to process photos quickly, and the sometimes finicky equipment used to send them to clients.

All of this left photographers with little wiggle room. Being late, out of position or overexposed meant failure.

But Caulkin managed to manage the variables and come back with the shot, said Vranic, who made his AP debut after Caulkin told his bosses they should hire the young Serb after working with him during of the World University Games in 1987 in what was then Yugoslavia.

“You always have to have that frame that will kill everyone, and that’s what I learned from Dave,” Vranic said. “Also other guys but, you know, Dave was my guy.”

This instinct helped Caulkin shoot Torvill and Dean.

Martyn Hayhow said he and Caulkin covered all of Torvill and Dean’s training sessions before the final because it was a huge story in Britain, where the public wondered if theirs was a story. of love as well as a sports partnership.

But on the day of the final, the top spot in the AP went to another photographer.

Caulkin and Hayhow were ordered to sneak into the arena and see what they could get. They hid in restrooms and bars all day until the competition started.

“Everyone thought that (Torvill and Dean) could have a romantic relationship. No one had a picture to prove the fact, but the picture that Dave actually showed was as close to a kiss as it gets,” Hayhow said “The fact that the photo was taken from a staircase instead of where the assigned press seats (were) made it all the more amazing.”

Jean, Caulkin’s wife of 54 years, couldn’t tell which of his photos she liked best – there were so many. But the image of Torvill and Dean remains special for her. So she asked for “Bolero” to be played at his funeral service – a reminder of a moment he captured forever.

“It,” she said, “is a tribute.”

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