John was very clever and full of ideas and, unusually, able to carry them out. There was no assignment from which he didn't return with a wonderful set of pictures. Shortly after he joined Queen, John said that he'd met Henry Moore. I said, "Go and start taking pictures of him."
Henry was a shy, private man but John patiently got over that and became his young companion. Henry loved John and the feeling was mutual - they were like father and son. Henry's wife Irina also loved John and so he became part of the family - spending long periods at their house near Much Hadham in Hertfordshire and going with them to Carrara in Italy to choose Henry's marble. Someone taking photographs all the time can make the subject feel unsettled, but there is no feeling of intrusion in John's photographs of Henry - that's what makes them unique.
The pictures resulted in the definitive book on Henry Moore, and John asked if I'd like to ghost the words. It was one of the most interesting experiences of my life, and cemented my friendship with John. One night every week, I stayed with John - who lived near Henry - and spent the following day talking to Henry about his philosophy. During the year we spent doing the book, Henry's wife Irina broke her hip. For a long time, she was confined to bed in the room above where the three of us sat and talked and argued and explored the mystery of Henry's genius. When we started gossiping, she'd thump on her floor with a broom and shout, "Get on with your work!"
After I sold Queen in 1968, John stayed on for a few years and then went to the Royal College of Art, having persuaded the Rector Robin Darwin that they needed a photographic course. He literally built the photographic department himself. He was holed up in tiny rooms while arguments about where the department should be continued for months, so he found himself a place in the much scattered buildings of the College, and with a huge hammer smashed down the walls himself to make space for the department. People went to Darwin and said, "The new Professor of Photography is pulling down walls," but he was allowed to get away with it because the purpose was so admirable.
John and I kept in touch, and then in 1984, after the College had got itself into a muddle, the treasurer George Howard asked me to interview for the job of Rector. I wouldn't have accepted the job if John hadn't been there. For two years, John had been Professor of Photography and had held the College together as Acting Rector. He was able to tell me what the problems were, which meant I could get a running start at them.
We resumed the working relationship that we had at Queen, but in totally different roles. We had been editor and photographer; we were now Rector and Pro-Rector. It was a good working relationship. We share an impatience with bureaucracy; we hate hypocrisy and suffer fools not at all. To run the College, the Rector has to get the backing of the Senate for new academic policies. John and I used to hone our policies before these Senate meetings, where 44 academics would sit for hours, and won virtually every issue by a mixture of shouting, smiling and literally exhausting the enemy. We defended each other's backs instinctively; when you know somebody that well you can talk in monosyllables and don't have to finish your sentences. If you accept that the Royal College came out of the crisis fairly fast, then it was due to the partnership of two great friends.
John's lifestyle is rather grand now. He lives in a historic building in Nor-folk which he's rescued from being a ruin almost with his bare hands. John is a country person. He wears old tweeds and a handkerchief round his neck - you can't get him into a tie. He's also a jackdaw who collects fascinating objects. At his house near Much Had-ham, where he lived with his wife Julia and three children, the garden was full of stone heads, bodies and legs which he assembled into strange sculptures.
John could easily sit in my seat, but I could not sit in his - he is an artist with a sound business head, but I am a lousy photographer and not an artist. We've both been divorced, both largely because we work too hard, but we also attach enormous value to our female companions - there's always a woman in John's life.
I don't think John has ever done anyone down, though he is tough, outspoken and often tactless. But in the 40 years we've known one another, we've never been head to head in an argument with each other.
JOHN HEDGECOE: I first met Jocelyn in 1957. I had a phone call from Mark Boxer, asking me if I would like a job on Queen. While I was waiting to see him at the office in Covent Garden, I spoke to a young man who was sorting out boxes of rubbish. He'd lost some pictures by Cartier-Bresson and I spent half an hour helping him search for them. Then I saw Mark, who gave me the job. It wasn't until a week after I'd started that I realised the chap that I'd helped sort out the rubbish was Jocelyn Stevens, the owner of Queen.
The first job I had was going round with a well-known Fleet Street writer, photographing politicians and film stars. I was usually made to wait outside while the writer did the interview. I was only given a minute to do the photograph, because what the writer really wanted was pictures of himself with Churchill, Macmillan or whoever, for the book he was doing. I hardly had time to look through the camera before the writer stood next to the famous person and said, "Take one of me." To get my own back, I never gave the writer any of the pictures, so he went to Jocelyn and complained like hell. I expected to get the sack, but instead Jocelyn turned to this eminent reporter and said, "John is a superb photographer, and I don't want you messing him about." From that moment, I trusted Jocelyn.
We got to know each other because often we were the only two left working after everyone else had gone home. I took pictures during the day and worked in my darkroom in the basement at night. Jocelyn had an office on the top floor and he used to turn all the lights off as he came downstairs, and pop into the basement for a chat.
We had very different upbringings. When I was four, my house was bombed in the war and I was evacuated to Cornwall. I went to half a dozen schools and never had proper schooling. When I started at Queen, I couldn't even afford a suit. Jocelyn's mother died a week after his birth and he inherited all this money. As a child he lived on his own with maids and housekeepers, and had a nanny who used to drive him round the park in a Rolls-Royce.
When I did my book on Henry Moore, I asked Jocelyn to help me edit it. Every Wednesday, we'd go down to Henry's house near Much Hadham and sit in his little conservatory and do the text. It was terrific fun; Jocelyn and Henry liked each other immensely and used to love telling each other stories. We'd be laughing away and Henry's wife Irina would shout from another room, "What are you doing - you sound like a bunch of schoolboys - you're meant to be working!"
Jocelyn has tremendous vitality. At weekends, he shoots, rides and skis. He seems to live every hour that exists - he is the one at midnight after a dinner party who'll say, "Let's go on somewhere." He devotes himself totally to work; I am sure that has a great deal to do with why his marriage failed. Mine did too - and I'd been married 28 years.
Jocelyn and his partner Vivien have as much energy and determination as each other. Before they founded a children's museum in Halifax called Eureka!, they travelled to every children's museum round the world. Even now, with all their other jobs, they still work on the museum all the time. They have lots of parties, which they plan at least a year ahead. The party of all time was for Vivien's 40th, 10 years ago. It was a boat trip from Venice to Turkey and back; over the week Jocelyn and Vivien must have entertained about 150 people.
Jocelyn is very outspoken and shouts a bit, but we've never fallen out. His temper is always exaggerated in the press: I saw lots of Jocelyn's explosions at the Royal College, but there was always a reason for them. His time there was not the brutal onslaught people wrote about. Jocelyn is a hard taskmaster who likes arguing, but one has to remember that the College had got very lax; nobody went unless they deserved to. Jocelyn's impact on the college was major. He left the college in a very good state and should have got his knighthood for that. He didn't, I suppose, because he treated government ministers the same as he treated others - he often ended up arguing with them. !Reuse content