Obituary: Sean Hudson

Tony Vogt
Friday 12 December 1997 00:02 GMT

Sean Hudson, photographer: born Leamington Spa, Warwickshire 12 February 1935; died Edinburgh 3 December 1997.

"I hide behind my lens," said Sean Hudson. He spent his life as a photographer seeking to square his deeply held beliefs in fairness and social justice with the need to make a living in the commercial world. He happened to be in Bucharest in 1989 when he was swept up in the miners' march on Ceausescu's palace and recorded its sacking. One of the photographs he took then appeared on the front page of the Independent.

Adopted from a children's home aged two, Hudson attended the City of London School, and then the London School of Hotel Management. It was while he was doing National Service in Cyprus that a sergeant shoved a camera in his hands, and said: "Here, gunner, take this and record the riots."

Graduating in photography from Guildford School of Art and then the London School of Film Technique, he found his first job with Donald Alexander's film team making documentaries for the Coal Board. As a freelance his films ranged from the scientific record for an anthropological expedition to south-west Africa to a beautiful film for the Arts Council, The Romanian Brancusi, and, more commercially, Get Carter. His favourite work was with Ken Loach, in particular on the 1969 film Kes. Partly for research, partly as a political statement, Hudson refused to stay in the location film crew's hotel, instead finding lodgings with a local miner's family. Miners had a habit of featuring in his life.

The need to do more led him to work for the Workers' Revolutionary Party, then experiencing a boost from Vanessa Redgrave, but, eventually disillusioned, he fled London to start life again in Edinburgh. Initially he earnt his keep as a waiter, while establishing himself as a freelance photographer, specialising in drama. He was heavily involved in the Festival and in 1983 became its official photographer. He was in demand with Scotland's theatres, and further afield worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Brighton Festival, the Limoges Festival in France, and the Venice Biennale.

Typically, when asked to help some Romanian actors dismissed by the Ceausescu regime, he instantly agreed to go to Bucharest, for no fee, to produce the necessary publicity photographs to set up an independent theatre. It turned out that Mihaj Maniutiu was a brilliant director and when his company later toured the UK it received great acclaim. Such actions made Hudson friends, but not money.

Sean Hudson had a gift of openness and calm that put people at ease, which contributed to his success both with performing artists and on a personal level, where he melted into one's family to become the firm friend of all generations.

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