Tributes paid to veteran street photographer

July 15, 2009

Tributes have been paid to 95-year-old Jimmy Forsyth whose pictures documented Newcastle life for more than five decades. Jimmy died on Saturday, a few days before his 96th birthday.

Despite losing the sight in one eye in the 1940s, Jimmy began documenting the city’s Scotswood Road in 1954 and subsequent demolition in the 1950s and 1960s.

He had taught himself photography after buying a cheap camera from a junk shop.

Reporting his death, the Newcastle Evening Chronicle said: ‘He also recorded incidents such as a hole in a bedroom wall caused by a runaway beer wagon in 1960. It was used by the Evening Chronicle, earning Jimmy seven shillings and six pence.’

Jimmy staged his first major exhibition in the early 1980s. A spokesman for Newcastle’s Side Gallery, which showcased his early work, said: ‘His work stands as one of the great records of its kind – a portrait of a working class community from within? we will all miss him.’

Born in Barry, South Wales, Jimmy left school at 14. In 1943 he sought a job as a fitter in Newcastle before losing the sight in one eye in an industrial accident.

His photographic talent went unnoticed until he took his albums to a local library in the 1970s where an expert realised their significance and began cataloguing thousands of Jimmy’s pictures.

Paying tribute on the Evening Chronicle website, reader Ray Moffatt wrote: ‘A very gentle and modest man with a great eye… if one man deserves a statue in Newcastle then it is Jimmy.’

Alan Waite added: ‘This is a sad loss. I used to remember him as a young man… his memory remains with his photographs.’

Jimmy died at Elswick Hall care home on 11 July. His funeral will take place tomorrow.

Click here for a BBC TV report about the work of Jimmy Forsyth.

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