Ron Reid was born in Western New South Wales, Australia. He took his first photographs at the age of 13 with a Kodak Bantam camera. Leaving home at 15, he was educated as a First-Class Engineer of motor-ships, and over the next 14 years rose to the position of Chief Engineer of ocean-going cargo ships, tankers and bulk carriers.
In 1966, he abandoned both Australia and this career for photography and photojournalism in England. He began documenting the burgeoning alternative society, and recording striking images of young people, particularly in and around the music scene, which vividly express the freedom and hope of those years. Reid shared many of their values, and soon became a lifelong advocate of vegetarianism, ecology, sexual liberation and non-coercive spiritual values.
His pictures of the early Glastonbury Festivals are unique, and have been collected into a book; a portrait of John Lennon too, among many others, has been widely admired and reproduced. Working as unpaid chief engineer, he was also instrumental in preparing and maintaining the first Rainbow Warrior for Green peace.
Reid was the house photographer for The Marquee Club in the 70s and 80s, and official photographer of Screaming Lord Sutch’s Monster Raving Loony Party. Taking to his bicycle he also lovingly recorded the street life and Carnivals of Notting Hill during this period, from skateboarding to punks, from gays to skinheads and squatters. Prior to his death in 1997 he had amassed a considerable archive of images of alternative living, rock music culture, youth and street styles etc.
In the years before his death Camera Press gave him the facilities for safely storing 14,000 images that he had shot and most of which have never been published. They represent the editorial rights to a selection of his photographs: https://www.camerapress.com
Nonetheless, the harsh new social climate of the 80s and 90s was hard on Reid, and he sometimes grew depressed about the rapacious appetites of consumer society, together with its authoritarian and reactionary leaders. At the time of his death he was looking forward to returning to Australia, which he believed had changed in such a way that it now had room for someone like him. Sadly, he never got the chance to find out.
Reid died in 1997 leaving behind an archive of nearly 15,000 photos, most of which have never been published.
Reid was a unique character, a very social and idealistic person who thought the best of everyone (except for the Pope, whom he hated, and drivers of large and expensive motor cars). He was loved, and will be missed by many.
This is an edited version of text from the obituary by Patrick Curry.
Click Here for Ron Reid’s website and read his own words from 1995.