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Doug Ross

1932 - 2020


Doug Ross - A Little Biography

Doug was born in Kingston Jamaica because that is where his parents were. Dad was in the Northumberland Fusiliers and his mum kept house in married quarters. A Jamaican nanny looked after him and she loved him as her own.

One day word came that the regiment was to be sent to Egypt the nanny ran off with ‘her’ 6 month old baby and hid in a forest. Sergeant Ross promptly sent the army out to find them – and it did. There is no known record of what happened to the nanny.

Doug fell in love for the first time when he was playing in a sand pit set amongst the barracks in downtown Cairo. He was 6 years old and the target of his affections was 7. She rejected him because he was too young for her.

During the early years of the Cold War Doug was a freight and passenger controller at RAF Gatow in Berlin. Every arriving passenger of any rank and from any type of aircraft had to sign in before being permitted to stay. Doug would cycle out to the aircraft on the runway and do his duty before disembarking took place.

One day a Russian Mig jet fighter landed and Doug took his bike and went to get the pilot to sign the arrival form. Too late! The pilot suddenly realized that he had landed on the wrong airfield when he saw armed soldiers galloping towards him and promptly took off again. There is no record of what happened to him when he got back to the Russian Zone. Doug failed to get his signature.

A small archive of photographs Doug has left shows some aspects of life in the British Zone of Berlin as it was some 8 or 9 years after the war ended. He was already an active photographer in the early 1950’s.

After the RAF Doug entertained himself by being, in no particular order, a Hoover salesman, a Town Hall clerk, a primary school teacher, a general adviser for First Schools and then the Senior Adviser for Primary Education in Northumberland. During all this time his serious activities included photography, hill walking and Youth Hosteling, road cycling, wrestling with his huge garden, reading (he had a library of some 1500 books spanning all sorts of subject matter), European travel and food – especially the food - and helping the government of the day develop a new curriculum in mathematics and language for primary age children. For this latter activity he, along with the other members of his committee, was offered the MBE. They all declined the offer.

When he retired from earning a living he devoted the greater part of his time to hill walking, which always included photography, lounging around in Provence, which always included photography and activities in his two camera clubs which nearly always included photography. He gave long service as a committee member in both clubs.

Although Doug’s work with colour slides spanned many years and was quite outstanding the photography he preferred was monochrome and invariably included people as subjects, whether they wanted to be included or not. He described his work, both colour and mono, as:

"Photographing ordinary people doing ordinary things in ordinary places."

He was most successful in this genre and leaves behind an archive of 16 splendid self-published books of his work.

Doug was passionate about photography and always curious about other people taking pictures.

John Thompson

Both Mary and myself would like to contribute.

Doug always asked "how was Mary?", and she would like to say she found him a most charming and interested person. They usually ended up discussing books.

My memories of Doug are of a very supportive man with regards to my images and he used to search me out at a meeting so that he could pass a favourable remark. He was the type of person who's opinion I valued. Always well dressed, his home and garden reflected the man. Imagine how upset he was to show me the huge damage a mole or moles had done to his garden where the lawn was covered in molehills!

A generous person, he often recommended photographic books to me and lent me those that he had. A talented photographer who was eager to use new technology; I still remember his AV of what could be some dancing sticks.

A friend who will long stay in my heart.

Ian Atkinson

Doug and John must surely have photographed most corners of Northumberland and it was always a delight to join them on one of their many outings in the county they love so much.

How was it that we could stand two feet from Doug and John and take a picture at the same time and the images they produced were so much better than ours - it's one of lifes mysteries!

It is said that for street photography it is more important to click with people than it is to click the shutter.

This was often demonstrated by Doug and it was this ability to connect with people that helped Doug to capture so many superb people pictures.

We would walk down a street past a group of truculent tattooed youngsters only to realise that Doug wasn't with us. He would be found chatting away with them, showing no fear and before they knew it they were readily agreeing to him taking their picture.

His natural curiosity and charm won through so many times...

Goodbye Doug.

Thank you for the inspiration.

Through your images and our memories, you won't be forgotten.

Jane Coltman

My favourite memory of Doug is of him showing pictures of groups of youths on the streets of Newcastle. When asked how he dared to photograph them he simply said “ I just asked them “ !!! I don’t think many of us would have been daring enough.

Best wishes

Jim Kirkpatrick

I remember Doug both as a very talented photographer and also as a great teacher.

He was always ready to offer help and encouragement, ready to share any new techniques he'd come across. I particularly remember one Wednesday Wander on the coast near Craster where he demonstrated 'intentional camera movement' - many years before it became fashionable - as he experimented to see what images he could conjur.

Dave Dixon

To me and what I know of Doug he was a gentleman.

He will be missed very much by myself and I am sure by all who knew him.

Malcolm Kus

Doug was a true gentleman , always had a word with everyone , never a bad word .I will always remember him when I first started he had a word with me to put me at ease.

Judith Snaith

Doug was always one for the unexpected response to the normal greeting such as:
"Good Morning" I said, to which he would reply "Is it?"
"How are you?" to which he replied "Well, I woke up this morning and I was still alive so I must be alright"

At a club meeting, I said "Good Evening" to which Doug replied "How do you know? It hasn't started yet."

I once went out with John and Doug for a stroll around Newcastle taking photographs. There was a certain type of person I would never photograph or even approach for fear of having my head bashed in or my camera ripped from me and thrown into the Tyne. This didn't apply to Doug. He seemed to have absolutely no fear in approaching the roughest looking groups of people, with faces pierced with safety pins, nails and other metal objects. He would have a chat and a joke with them and then take some brilliant portraits.

Richard Stent

To me Doug was a Gentle Man in every sense. He always asked about Elaine and our welfare. He had a very dry sense of humour but never a bad word about anyone. He was always willing to pass on his photography knowledge to all and I will be forever grateful to him for the help he gave me at the Club. Below are two photos which I think sums him up (the Teacher and the Master Photographer).

Doug you will be badly missed but never forgotten.

Gerry Simpson

If you have any memories about Doug that you'd like to add to this page, then please send them to Dave Dixon for inclusion.

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