Retirement ends decades-long era in press photography
Whether walking with Nelson Mandela, or capturing the grace of British royals or the wrath of a riot, prominent Bay photographer Mike Holmes has spent decades on the frontline of press photography.
Now Holmes, 62, has finally closed the shutter on four decades of newspaper photography – a phenomenal 37 years of which were spent shooting award-winning images for The Herald, Weekend Post and the former Evening Post publications.
Holmes, who photographed the likes of Queen Elizabeth II and her grandsons, said he had many fond memories of covering major stories of the day since he first joined the Bay newspapers in 1979.
His tenure with Times Media followed stints with Rapport and former Afrikaans daily Die Oosterlig.
“Spending time with [former president] Nelson Mandela was very special to me,” Holmes recalled.
He completed his photography studies at the then Port Elizabeth Technikon at the age of 21 before starting his career as a news photographer – often in the face of adversity.
“Photography has always been a passion of mine, especially news and sport, and then wildlife during off time,” he said.
Having covered major news events, including the Rhodesian Bush War, Holmes said his career had seen many ups and downs but that this came with the job.
“Big events as they unfold are always the best. You don’t have to set up anything, just follow it as it unfolds,” he said.
Starting off in the era of black-andwhite, “developing pictures in a poky little room”, Holmes’s talents evolved in tandem with all the technological developments in photography.
Former Herald deputy editor and Weekend Post editor Jeremy McCabe praised Holmes for his excellent work ethic and talents.
“He is probably one of the best press photographers I know,” he said.
In 1985, Holmes and McCabe covered the funeral of apartheid victims the Cradock Four.
“He is a guy you would want to go to war, never afraid to go into areas with imminent danger,” McCabe said.
He recounted how a light aircraft was chartered to fetch Holmes and bring him back to Port Elizabeth so he could develop the pictures from the funeral and distribute them around the world.
“With teargas on the one side, stones and bullets flying on the other side, Mike always made sure the work was done,” McCabe said.
Former Herald news editor Pat Sydie said of Holmes: “You could give him any job and he would come back with brilliant pictures.”
Sydie said Holmes excelled in his professionalism as a photographer and was very efficient although very quiet and reserved.
McCabe said: “He is unflappable. Even when covering the violence in the northern areas, he always delivered good pictures.”
Having captured memorable moments in Port Elizabeth’s history, including the state visit of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1995, the Rugby World Cup in the same year and the 2010 Soccer World Cup, Holmes said he would continue snapping pictures and planned to “reinvent myself”.