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MORGAN, DAVID - OBITUARY AND TRIBUTE

David Morgan, a respected, admired, and loved celebrity photographer, died in his sleep last Thursday, November 20, 2008, at just 53. Two days earlier, we had waved at each other across the crowded floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney during the press conference for Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. Andrew L. Urban pays tribute to a professional colleague and friend.

It was sadly fitting that David’s last big gig was the coverage of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia; it celebrates David’s adopted country and in its reflection, David himself. First and foremost, I liked David for his great sense of humour and love of fun. He was modest yet highly talented, sincere and professional.

We were often working in parallel: he would be at Cannes shooting celebs, I would be there writing about the event and the films. Indeed, it was at a Cannes film festival in the mid 90s that we first forged a bond of professional friendship, when I was able to help David acclimatise in that crazy environment; I had the advantage of previous experience and the backing of film industry trade publication, Moving Pictures, behind me.

It was as a representative of Moving Pictures that in 1999 I visited the wonderful Moulin de Mougins restaurant and function centre run by Roger Verge to attend Elizabeth Taylor’s glittering AIDS charity dinner and auction. Needless to say, David was there with the gaggle of photographers, behind the paparazzi barricade. I was rubbing shoulders with the guests, from Jerry Hall to (big-noting) Harvey Weinstein and Roger Moore, among others. I was sitting in the second row during the auction, facing Liz Taylor (seated in a wheelchair) and David was at the back; he gesticulated for me to somehow get myself over to the stage and he’d try and take a pic of me and Liz in proximity. This cheeky ploy somehow worked, as the adjacent photo (published in Hello! Magazine) shows. That’s the kind of guy David was – he could engineer an in-joke and send up the occasion but his work ethic was impeccable. He just never got lost in it. We had many laughs and shared some war stories, helped each other where possible. These shared moments of chaos helped forge our relationship.

"His work ethic was impeccable, but he never got lost in it."

His work ethic was impeccable, but he never got lost in it. We had many laughs and shared some war stories, helped each other where possible. These shared moments of chaos helped forge our relationship.

We never shared by-lines on a story, but we often turned up at the same events here in Australia, too. Sometimes he even photographed Louise and myself on a red carpet when we were in dual roles as media and guests. He never accepted payment from us for photos we used, and even took the most recent headshots of Louise and myself for this site. He covered our 10th anniversary celebrations and – at some expense to himself - he would send me festival catalogues from places like Toronto. This year’s beautiful but enormous volume cost $45 to airmail.

"a true artist behind the lens"

And speaking of Toronto, it was his long time friend, writer / photographer Ian M. Evan who broke the news of his death to us on Saturday morning. On his website www.digitalhit.com. Ian pays tribute to David: “David, a Welsh-born, Sydney, Australia-based snapper was a larger-than-life figure. Besides being a true artist behind the lens, David was a mentor, a big brother, a kid, a raconteur, and a great friend rolled into imposing figure of a man. Though David had the stature to take on anyone, his close friends knew the warm person inside.

“Christine and I have known David for our entire time covering the Toronto International Film Festival. He was one of the first photographers I met when shooting at the galas at Roy Thompson Hall. When we headed inside to shoot the introductions, I asked who was standing in the prime spot next to him. “You are now, mate!” he said and we were friends from that day forward.

“As a couple of Welshmen, David and I shared a lot of the same tastes in movies and comedy. Every year when I saw him, we’d compare notes on some films or performers and he’d always recommend older films that I should see. I saw the press screening of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia yesterday. I emailed David about it and said I looked forward to his thoughts on the film. I’ll never know now.

“He really respected the art of the photographer and hated the new business models that were stripping shooters of a living wage and copyright ownership. I’d frequently send him emails about one of the Big Bad Companies and he told me this year that he’d forward them on to his photographer pals in Sydney. He also had a dislike for the new breed of “stalkerazzi” who swarmed and hassled the celebrities.

"Everyone has a David story"

“He was a funny guy, who loved a good laugh and a pint. Everyone has a David story. Or a few. Or a book’s worth. Christine has a funny Hugo Weaving story with David that just doesn’t work well in print, but we still chuckle about it every time we see Hugo’s name.

“This year, David and I shot a red carpet that featured fellow Aussie Bryan Brown. He told me a story where he was shooting an event in Australia a few years back and Brown asked him, “What are you doing here?” David responded, “I’m a celebrity photographer, so what exactly are you doing here?” It wasn’t mean-spirited at all, just two acquaintances jabbing each other as evidenced by Bryan’s smile, laugh and handshake when they saw each other this year.

“Even though we only saw David for ten days each year, those crazy hectic days forged a lifetime of memories and a bond of friendship. David was one of those loyal friends that would defend his circle. In a movie, he’d be the friend who’d tower behind you as the bad guys tried to start a bar fight. If he was in The Untouchables, he’d be the Sean Connery character, except of course Connery’s famous speech would be changed to “If they bring a wide angle, you show up with a telephoto.”

"David will be sorely missed"

“David will be sorely missed by everyone who knows him. I still can’t believe that I won’t see him at the Toronto festival next September. Christine and I send our love and thoughts to his friends and family around the world.”

And likewise from Louise and me.

Published November 22, 2008
 

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David Morgan

Welsh born freelance photographer, David has spent more than 25 years shooting people on film. At the 50th Cannes Film Festival, two of David’s images were selected for display at an exhibition honouring the photographers who dedicate their time to photographing the world’s most famous and prestigious film festival. (David was the only Australian based photographer whose work was chosen for inclusion in this exhibition.)

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Funeral details:
3.15pm, Thurs November 27th
West Chapel Eastern Suburbs Memorial
12 Military Road, Matraville

The wake will be held afterwards at the Lord Dudley Hotel, Jersey Road, Woollahra.

Peter Carrette & some of the gang will have a recovery breakfast at DBs at Double Bay on Friday morning.

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David Morgan - photo courtesy news.com.au


David’s cheeky shot of Andrew L. Urban with Elizabeth Taylor at a charity dinner & auction at the 3-star Michelin Moulin de Mougins establishment, organised by Taylor’s AIDS support organisation, at the end of the 52nd Cannes Film Festival. The photo was later in Hello! Magazine in June 1999.


Louise Keller, George Miller and Andrew Urban at Urban Cinefile's 10th Anniversary Forum, held at Chauvel Cinema, February 2007
(Photos by David Morgan)
UC 10th Anniversary Forum







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