TRIBUTES have been paid to a respected photographer whose career spanned more than 30 years.

Des Blake’s introduction to the profession began when he joined the town’s camera club and started taking photographs at friends’ weddings.

Meanwhile he was still working his full-time job at Woods’ engineers and at that time went by his full name of Des Blake-Amos.

He sent one of those wedding photos to the Essex Chronicle newspaper in Chelmsford and put a stamp with his name and address on the back of the photo.

Mr Blake's two daughters Suzanne and Marion said: “On 1956 this brought a knock on our door from Mike Roberts who was an ex-Daily Express journalist from the Midlands, working on a new newspaper in Colchester called the Colchester Express which the Chronicle started up to take on the Essex County Standard…they needed someone who could take photos.

“Dad’s first freelance picture was taken in 1956 and on a 35mm Paz camera, he had already moved on from the old plate cameras.

“Mike liked Dad’s style, however, he didn’t like his name, too long he said, and this was when dad became known as Des Blake.”

Before the family knew it, Mr Blake was being asked to cover many jobs in Colchester all while still working at Woods’, with the new paper launching in 1957.

His daughters said: “He used to ride his bike to some jobs in his lunch break, change from his overalls and pedal full pelt back to work.

“He was determined to make it as a press photographer, and it wasn’t long before we lost our family bathroom at home which Dad turned into a darkroom with the enormous tanks along the bath and water running what seemed day and night and films hanging from a clothes line strung across the ceiling.

“Dad later built a purpose-built darkroom next to the house which meant we could all stop washing in the kitchen sink.”

The newspaper was even produced from Mr Blake’s home while in its infancy before it properly moved into offices in the town.

Mr Blake worked with the Colchester Express before it was finally taken over by its rival in 1978, where he continued to work for Essex County Newspapers for nearly 13 years, before he retired in 1991.

Over the years just some of the other Royals Mr Blake photographed included Princess Anne and Princess Margaret.

Marion and Suzanne said their dad’s early days at the Express brought back especially fond memories for them.

“He was well known at Colchester United Football ground in Layer Road as Dad loved to banter with the crowd and would click away getting their photos too.

"Photos abounded back then of dinner dances, bazaars, carnivals and beauty queens, fetes, council meetings – ‘faces sold papers’ was the motto – and of course there were the celebrities and royalty that visited Colchester too, Dad covered them all…he became known as the photographer who would get in there, up close, hang off of or just be where everyone else wasn’t to get the photo.

“Whether that’s in the court room which prompted the clerk to call ‘stranger in court’ because he wasn’t where he should be, or straddling a High Street roof ledge to get a shot of something.”

On one occasion he was sent to take photos of the Queen when she visited Colchester in 1958 and told by Mr Roberts “to get something different”.

“Dad being Dad took a chance to step out of line to take a photo of the Queen with Prince Philip, for which he got a rollicking from the Equerry, but to Dad’s delight the photos were used and he didn’t lose his job…and until his death this photo hung in pride of place in his wall at home.”

As a child Mr Blake attended North Street Primary School and then St Helena School and had his first encounter with the press before his adult life.

When he was aged 13 he saved the life of a friend, Cyril Davis who had fallen through the ice when the children were playing by the River Colne.

He went into the water, fully clothed and with rubber boots on, to save Cyril and then cycled home soaking and freezing where he was put to bed.

Mr Blake received commemorative books from Cyril’s parents and there was a piece in the local newspaper that noted how brave he’d been – as he was himself a non-swimmer.

He left school aged 14 and worked at the Air Ministry department at Masons in Cowdray Avenue before volunteering for the air force, having changed his date of birth as he was too young.

After the Second World War he went back to Masons and met Mollie, who was to become his wife and they had four children, Carolyn, Michael, Suzanne and Marion and he later went to work for Woods.

Mr Blake died aged 92 and is survived by daughters Suzanne and Marion, nine grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and three great, great grandchildren.

His funeral took place last Wednesday.