Nothing could stand in the way of photographing Jacqueline Kennedy on holiday in Acapulco, Reginald Davis thought – even if it meant he was at risk of the Mexican authorities ramming his small motor boat.
As the gunboat dramatically turned to ram Davis again, the wake caused the Kennedy’s dinghy to capsize, giving him a unique photo opportunity: JFK’s widow and her two children, giggling and smiling in the water, following their unplanned plunge.
The resulting picture is just one of a stunning array of images taken by Davis, now 92 and a member of Hendon United Synagogue, who spent 70 years photographing famous personalities around the world. A selection of his work has just been published in a new book, My Life Photographing Royalty and The Famous.
After learning his trade as a Fleet Air Arm photographer during the Second World War, Davis started off with a small press agency, before establishing himself as a Fleet Street regular.
To say his career has been varied is an understatement. As he recalls in his book: “I have flown in a helicopter, I’ve flown in Air Force One, been driven in a power-boat with the Crown Prince of Iran and privately dined with royalty.”
Speaking this week, Davis, who grew up in Stoke Newington and now lives in north London, says: “I’ve had so many incredible moments, I couldn’t really pick one over the other.
“Working with our Queen was wonderful. She creates a tremendous amount of aura and it excites you to do better things.
“She recognised me when I came to collect my MBE in 2008 and asked how I was.
“I was never nervous when I took my photographs, because I had to have full control. When I went with my camera, I always told myself, ‘I am king for the day’, otherwise I would have been useless.”
The grandfather-of-three adds: “I achieved what I set out to do and proud that I gave many people pleasure from my work.”
My Life Photographing Royalty and The Famous by Reginald Davis, is published by Austin Macauley Publishers, priced £19.99 (hardback). Available now.