Daily Mail photographer Alan Davidson dies at the age of 70 after imaging the biggest stars for 50 years
The date: May 1990. The scene: the ice-white beauty of the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, a mythical movie star retreat on the French Riviera.
Two of Hollywood’s preeminent action men, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, are present and have photos graciously taken.
So far so predictable when a voice shoots up from behind one of the click lenses: ‘Why don’t you hold hands and dance? It would be a great shot. ‘
Legend Behind the Lens: Photographer of the Rich and Famous Alan Davidson Dies at the Age of 70 After Decades of Capturing the Stars in the Game
Let’s dance! A photo of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger dancing in the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in France was blasted all over the world
They did and it happened – and those pictures went around the world.
The figure behind the voice was Alan Davidson of the Daily Mail for half a century – yes, 50! – drove almost everywhere on London nightlife, lowlife, political life and celebrity.
Today we mourn the Mail at the age of 70, a man who was always in the middle of the action behind the camera or before.
No event was off-limits to Alan, no gathering where there was a chance that a familiar face would be missed.
He also suffered for his job, once getting a nosebleed from a nanny over lunch to remember Buddy Holly.
A Moment in Time: Bob Geldof and Paula Yates were snapped at the 1985 Wembley Live Aid charity concert by Alan Davidson
Showbiz royalty: Elton John and Elizabeth Taylor at a 1991 AIDS charity lunch in Mayfair were among the famous faces captured by the photographer
Another time, he was chased by security men while dressed in the flowing robes of an Arab for a costume ball he’d been to.
He photographed everyone, the famous and the infamous. His mission: to capture them while playing.
He was, of course, in Hyde Park, in front of the stage, when The Rolling Stones played their free concert just days after Brian Jones’s death in 1969.
And who other than our Alan was at the Royal Albert Hall in 1989 for one of the most star-studded nights when Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli and Sammy Davis Jr performed together, one of the last times they were all on the same stage .
Photo fun: TV host Clare Balding and former jockey Willie Carson share a joke at a horse racing gala in 2015
Alan’s Favorite Picture: One of Davidson’s most famous pictures was of the teenage Lady Diana Spencer who left Princess Margaret’s 50th birthday party at the Ritz in 1980
Party Photos: Prince Andrew with actor Kevin Spacey and Amanda Donohoe during an Old Vid benefit evening in 2003
One of his most famous photos – and his favorite – was of the teenage Lady Diana Spencer who left Princess Margaret’s 50th birthday party at the Ritz in 1980, two months after her romance with Prince Charles.
Shot through a limo window, it is an image of a luminous and fragile beauty.
Equally intimate was the photo he took at a private party of Lord Snowdon on his knees talking to his youngest daughter Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones.
The royals were a regular in his work – he was once sprayed with white paint by Prince Andrew (for fun) – but so were political leaders.
The photo he received of Margaret Thatcher and Ted Heath, who did not become famous at a dinner in 2002 for the Queen and all the living Prime Ministers, was remarkable.
Royal life captured: Princess Diana with the Queen in Windsor in 1982. The royals were a regular feature of David’s work – he was once sprayed with white paint by Prince Andrew (for fun)
Rocks’ n ‘camera roll: The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and Mick Jagger at Ronnie Scott’s Club in Soho in 1985, listening to the jazz band of Charlie Watts
The brutal simplicity reached over 1,000 polished words they could ever do. As Alan put it brilliantly, “You could have cut the atmosphere between the two with a knife – and it shows.”
Davidson, born in 1949 in Leeds, always wanted to be a press photographer. After leaving school at age 15, he got a job as a messenger at the old photo agency Keystone on Fleet Street for £ 10 a week.
He bought a second-hand Rolleiflex and a flash and went out and photographed street life.
His first published photos were from student demonstrations, but he soon discovered a talent for photographing celebrities.
In 1969, a photo of actress Rachel Roberts took the front page of the Daily Sketch on the day her husband Rex Harrison announced their marriage was over and Davidson was on the way.
Peter Sellers and his third wife, model Miranda Quarry, at their wedding reception at Tramps on Jermyn Street in 1970
Famous .. and notorious! Disgraced Member of Parliament and fraudster Robert Maxwell is depicted in fancy dress at a party in 1989
Thirsty work: pop star Adele at a movie premiere in 2008. Davidson broke decades of some of the biggest names in the world
After a short stint with the Maidenhead advertiser, he joined the mail and his photos are a pictorial chronicle of the past 50 years.
He broke some of the biggest names in the world: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Jerry Hall and all three of her leading men – Brian Ferry, Mick Jagger and her current husband Rupert Murdoch.
Alan’s wife Sandra said she never knew what time he would come home. Alan was busy, bossy, and sometimes downright annoying, but he rarely dropped out on any of his subjects, no matter how many times he asked for “just one photo.”
His last and most important assignment was to give Joanne, the eldest of his two daughters, to her wedding last August when he was already very ill.
Last night, Daily Mail Editor Geordie Greig paid tribute: “Thirty-five years ago, when I first met Alan Davidson in the Daily Mail offices, he was impossible to ignore.
His hunger to be in the right place to take the best shot marked him as someone whose photos would always be remarkable.
“He was unstoppable in his pursuit and, coupled with his unstoppable personality, was a legend behind the lens.”