Obituaries: Ken Bray

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The Independent Online
One of the qualities which united those who surrounded David Lean was enthusiasm. And this applies to his stills photographers as much as to his camera crew. Stills photographers and "backroom boys" are seldom given their due by film historians - yet they are dependent on their work. Quite often it is an image taken by a stills man which passes into the history books to represent a film - like Bray's thrilling picture of Lean, Freddie Young (hidden) and crew filming in the teeth of a gale on Ryan's Daughter.

Ken Danvers was David Lean's usual stills photographer. Ken Bray was head of the stills department at MGM Borehamwood. He was sent to Ireland to set up darkrooms, and then MGM asked him to take over the unit stills work. There was no rivalry with Danvers - "It let him off the hook, really. It was just what he wanted. He could come on the set when he wanted to."

The first greeting he got from a worried Lean was "Stop clicking that bloody camera!" (The film was going wildly over-budget.) Bray got to know Lean's girlfriend, Sandy Hotz, and gradually she began to show Lean his pictures. Lean's interest was aroused; he was a Leica man,and he asked Bray why he preferred a Nikon.

"I gave him my usual answer. 'Would you ask Rembrandt what paintbrush he used?' He roared with laughter - and that broke the ice.

"He preferred black-and-white stills to colour slides and he always liked to see what I had taken. He used to criticise the prints from the point of view of cropping. But he was a big help to me, and always found time for me to take stills after he had finished a scene.

"To be chosen to work on a David Lean picture was like being chosen to play for England. He always kept people he trusted, and Ken Danvers told me that if you were chosen again, you knew he approved of you."

Ken Bray had to wait. Ryan's Daughter (1970) received a critical assault which dissuaded Lean from making another film. (He tried to remake Mutiny on the Bounty in the mid-1970s.) Meanwhile, Bray had worked on some of the most important films of the time - 2001, A Clockwork Orange, The Great Gatsby and Where Eagles Dare.

He had seen his first films as a child in the silent era, and had been fascinated ever since. He served in the RAF from 1943 to 1947 - he was a sergeant rear gunner in Lancasters. After the war, he worked for Dufaycolour and joined Pinewood Studios as a printer. Six months later he went to MGM and was promoted to head of their stills department in 1964. His brilliance with a camera was recognised and he worked on 80 or 90 feature films. But David Lean remained his favourite director.

Fourteen years after Ryan's Daughter, Lean made another film - A Passage to India - and he asked for Ken Bray. "I knew he liked my photography and I retired a happy man."

Kenneth Henry Bray, photographer: born Bushey, Hertfordshire 31 December 1922; married 1947 Joan Stocks (one son, two daughters); died Watford 18 May 1996.

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