OBITUARIES : Ian Ball
Tuesday 21 February 1995
After a spell in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, Ball bowed to parental pressure to work for a life assurance company. During his insurance career he had over 400 pictures published in the national press, and on retirement he carved himself a successful career in an area which is notoriously difficult to enter.
He relished far-flung assignments, such as photographing the Tall Ships Race in the middle of the Bay of Biscay, last year. He returned with a picture taken from the crow's nest. He had sent a crew member up the mast with a Polaroid camera to shoot the angles. Then, having chosen the best from the instant prints, he sent another person up the mast to set up a remote- controlled camera to recreate the Polaroid image.
During the Second World War he had taken a classic image of the war at sea - the sun setting behind a sinking tanker, which had been torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Not only did Ball produce this iconic photograph, he also helped to pick up the survivors. He used his naval contacts to secure a place on a British warship during the Gulf war, being winched on to the deck from a helicopter at an age when many people cannot climb stairs. His latest project involved photographing wildlife in Antarctica, an assignment doubly difficult because of the cold and the special skills required of a wildlife photographer.
Ian Ball would go to extraordinary lengths to obtain precisely the result he wanted - whether lying flat on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, crawling on the ice in Antarctica or using mirrors to take a photograph face-on of a bullet emerging from the barrel of a pistol.
Ian Ball was among the best newspaper photographers - he leaves behind a body of work which will continue to be published well into the future.
Ian Ball was the gamest veteran newspaper photographer that I worked with as picture editor of the Independent, writes Christopher McKane. It was no surprise that he was our first photographer in the Gulf war theatre: he had had the foresight to wangle his way on board the destroyer HMS Gloucester in January 1991, just before the hostilities began. Keen though Ian was to return later to the Gulf, I had to tell the editor with my tongue only slightly in my cheek that his heart pacemaker and advanced age (76 at the time) probably made him unsuitable for a combat role.
Some years later he felt badly let down by the Royal Navy when an upstart young petty officer refused him permission to dive from the ship in which he was a welcome guest on the grounds that the Navy could no longer be responsible for somebody of his age. I think the ship was in Antarctica at the time.
"The Admiral's" visits to the picture desk were always a pleasure, not least because behind the quiet and even diffident way in which he would present his latest portfolio lay a young man's enthusiasm for adventure. Sport brought out his technical ingenuity, whether in finding distinctive new ways of covering gymnastics, archery or surfing, or in fitting a home- made gadget to a kayak to photograph it underwater as it rolled.
Ian Ball, photographer: born Dhariwal, India 7 September 1914; died London 19 February 1995.
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