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Behind The Lens: The Legacy of a Highland news photographer - tribute to Gary Anthony

By Val Sweeney

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The late Gary Anthony with his hat trick of awards in 2014.
The late Gary Anthony with his hat trick of awards in 2014.

In a conversation not long before he died, award-winning Highland News & Media photographer Gary Anthony reflected on a lifetime in newspapers.

He had invited myself and a former colleague round to his home one lunchtime as he wanted to mull over an idea.

He wanted to discuss the potential of running a series featuring photographs he had taken over the years – and perhaps a follow-up exhibition or book.

Sadly, he did not live long enough to see his wish come to fruition.

But in tribute to Gary, we are launching an online retrospective series, Behind The Lens: The Legacy of a Highland Photographer.

Death of popular award-winning Inverness Courier photographer aged 58

PICTURES: Photographic tribute to Highland press photographer and 'gentleman' Gary Anthony

Heartfelt tributes to 'true professional and gentleman'

As well as celebrating his talent and versatility, it will no doubt evoke memories of the many stories he covered in our community.

It begins with an award-winning photograph taken in 2014 depicting a silhouetted image of then Inverness MP Danny Alexander and Alistair Darling launching the local Better Together campaign at a business breakfast in Inverness in the run up to the referendum on Scottish independence.

The silhoutted images of Danny Alexander (left) and Alistair Darling as they promote the Better Together campaign during a business breakfast in Inverness. Picture: Gary Anthony.
The silhoutted images of Danny Alexander (left) and Alistair Darling as they promote the Better Together campaign during a business breakfast in Inverness. Picture: Gary Anthony.

Gary was an unassuming and modest person but to thousands across the area, he was the popular and visible face of Highland News & Media – and often recognisable due to his lofty height!

As the man behind the lens, he had captured moments of history in the making, recorded people's triumphs and tragedies and observed day-to-day life, often working to a tight deadline but managing to bring an artistry to his images.

It was late last summer when Gary first mooted the suggestion of the series and on a rare day of sunshine, it was warm enough for us to sit outside in the garden and enjoy Harry Gow's macaroni cheese pies – a favourite of Gary's.

He had been fighting cancer for many months and was visibly deteriorating but as he outlined his ideas, there was a sense of focus and determination.

As we recalled anecdotes, the conversation moved into a philosophical and thought-provoking discussion about the vital role and importance of local media in the communities they serve – and how sometimes people needed a gentle reminder of that.

Gary, who was passionate about his craft, was intrinsically linked to the community through his work whether it was having a ringside seat as a dramatic event unfolded such as a blazing building, or capturing the excitement of youngsters at a school event.

We met again in the next couple of weeks to start formulating the series.

Sadly, time ran out. His condition deteriorated quickly and he died at home just a couple of days after our last meeting and six days after turning 58 years old.

He left sons Damon (18) and Richard (14), parents Kenneth and Isabella, and brothers Kenny and David.

His death prompted many heartfelt tributes and memories from people far and wide.

Certain words and phrases cropped up frequently. A gentleman and true professional. Friendly. Patient. Kind. Wonderfully creative. Artistic.

Glasgow-born Gary had started his 40-year career as a freelance, working on assignments across Scotland and in Europe, including the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, his work appearing in national newspapers.

He joined Scottish Provincial Press – later Highland News & Media – in 2007 and became chief photographer in 2013.

If it was happening in the area, Gary was often there whether it was photograph a government minister, snap sporting achievements or capture a poignant moment with an evocative and sensitive image.

He would strive for perfection, working out how to get a better angle and would not leave a job until he was satisfied he had done his best under the circumstances while even the most reluctant of subjects would be coaxed by Gary to pose for the camera.

Justifiably, he scored a hat-trick at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards in 2014, scooping the prestigious Journalist of the Year gong along with Photographer of the Year and Top Shot of the Year prizes – just a week after he picked up the Scottish Provincial Press Photographer of the Year award.

In 2019, his portfolio earned him the title of photographer of the year at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards awards.

As republish a selection of his photographs in the forthcoming series, we are also keen to hear your memories of Gary, or your recollections of the news story depicted in the image.

You can let us know your thoughts by emailing newsdesk@hnmedia.co.uk.

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