The Picture That Inspired Me

This is the picture by Ron Burton that inspired me to become a professional photographer over 40 years ago. It triggered my determination that some day I would work for a national daily newspaper. It had a tremendous effect on me – initially, I suppose, because of my boyhood interest in aeroplanes, but it was much deeper than that. Before this picture I never thought that there was actually a real person behind the camera when pictures appeared in newspapers – here was a picture actually showing the face of the photographer right in the centre of the action – that’s where I wanted to be, in the middle of the action.

It took Ron Burton six weeks to finalise the details and gain permission to fly with the Red Arrows. A Nikon F camera with a 21mm lens was fixed by the RAF chief engineer to the ejector seat in front of the photographer. The shutter was triggered by remote control. The Red Arrows normally fly in stepped-down formation so that each pilot has a clearer view of the aircraft next to him, but Ron persuaded them to fly stepped-up for this picture so that he could photograph them all more easily… quite a dangerous formation manoeuvre.

Red Arrows II

Ron was working for the new Sun newspaper at the time and this picture was part of his portfolio in 1965 when he won the British Press Photographer of the Year Award for the third time, having previously won it in 1958 as a Keystone staff photographer and again in 1962 when he worked for the Daily Herald.

I met up with Ron some years later at another Press Photographer Awards ceremony in London – I was then working as a staffman on The Daily Express and had won the News Section with a picture of an armed police raid. Ron and I became friends. He was a true professional in every sense of the word.

Philip Dunn, former Sunday Times travel photographer