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Ken Russell: Topfoto Reaction

From Flora Smith, partner,
It is with great sadness that we hear the news of the death of Ken Russell. TopFoto has represented Ken since the negatives of his 1950s photographs came to light in our archive in 2006 and during this time, Ken and his adored wife Elise became real friends. When I first went to visit Ken, I approached with some anxiety , not least because I hadn’t seen many of his films, but the moment I stepped through the door all was well. I came with boxes of precious silver gelatin prints to identify, caption and sign – and Ken, with baggy shorts, sandals and an unapologetically loud shirt, was kind, funny, gallant, co-operative and razor sharp. He also had the biggest collection of giant tea cups I had ever seen.

Earlier this year, Ken took my photograph with Lisi’s camera phone and even though by then he was having bad days, he pounced on the fact that I’d blinked at the important moment (I denied it – but he was absolutely right, his eye was always true), and insisted on taking the picture again. I visited them later at the end of April when Ken was recuperating from his first stroke, and he was as lovely as ever “there are so many OLD people here” he said with a beaming smile, which widened even further when I gave him a box of chocolate truffles (he had quite a sweet tooth…)! I was always entranced that Ken could bridge the generations so effortlessly, he personified Picasso’s comment that “it takes a long time to become young”.

Ken had the youngest spirit and was a man who seemed to me to be the essence of “Live well. Laugh often. Love much”. In the best possible way, he made four years of friendship feel like a lifetime, and I am so grateful.
An exhibition of Ken Russell’s photography ran at the Topfoto Gallery in May 2010.