Obituary: Rory Peck
Tuesday 05 October 1993
RORY PECK, a freelance war cameraman, was characteristically in the thick of fighting when he was wounded while filming the battle around the Ostankino television station in Moscow, on Sunday. He died of his wounds in hospital.
In the words of the BBC's foreign affairs editor, John Simpson, Peck was one of the 'unsung heroes who bring news and film from the world's most dangerous places'. He was one of a growing band of cameramen who work alone, first all through Frontline News, a London-based agency known for its war coverage, of which he was a founder partner. With his second wife and joint total of four children, he later set up in Moscow (complete with Afghan servant and dacha), filming all over the former Soviet Union on assignment for leading television companies.
Peck was born in the United States of a family from Northern Ireland. He started a career in the Army, but after a spell at Sandhurst (like so many war cameramen, he had some military experience) he decided the army life was not for him. He claimed that the early starts interfered with his social life. He than had an unsuccessful go at the antiquarian book business. In the mid-1980s, for a change, he set off for Peshawar to cover the Afghan war as a stills photographer. It was there that he tried his hand with a television camera, learning on the job. His many trips into Afghanistan, which he took with little thought for his own safety, brought dramatic pictures of the fighting to the world's television screens. He returned to Britain in 1989 and filmed in Bucharest for the BBC during the violent few days of the December 1989 uprising against Ceausescu, bringing the first pictures to British television at great personal risk. In the Gulf war he made it to Baghdad via Amman to capture dramatic scenes, including the bombed residential area that the US military claimed was a command post.
During the failed Soviet coup in August 1991 and the aftermath his good contacts ensured exclusive footage in the KGB headquarters, the Central Committee and Gorbachev's office plus, of course, vivid pictures of the action on the streets of Moscow. In recent months he had made several trips to Sarajevo to film from the Muslim side. I met Peck last year - sporting an outsize fur hat - in the troubled enclave of Nagorny Karabakh, where he filmed both on the Armenian and Azeri sides. He happily ignored all attempts to restrict or direct his film coverage.
He was an engaging and outgoing character, and many of his colleagues enjoyed his company on their arduous and self-inflicted journeys to bring pictures of the world's war zones to television screens.
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