The overhead shots will look great from heaven

TOM JENKINS, an SJA member and long-time colleague of Mike King, pays this tribute to his old friend who died earlier this week

Mike King, who died last week, pictured here when at the peak of his career, having done a shoot at Arsenal with Ian Wright
Mike King, who died last week, pictured here when at the peak of his career, having done a shoot at Arsenal with Ian Wright

I have been meaning to write this for a few days. The problem has been the second I have started to write about Mike King, the waterworks start up and I can’t see the bloody keyboard. This won’t come as a surprise to people who know me as I have been known to shed a tear when someone gets voted off the Bake Off. But this week has been so very different. 

It’s hard to sum up quickly what Mike means to me. I suppose he was my photographic big brother.

When I was embarking on my career in the strange world of sports photography, the person who helped me more than anyone else was Mike. He was a massive inspiration not only because of his beautiful creative eye but his technical ability was second to none.

He was the undoubted master of follow-focus in those halycon days when cameras didn’t tell us what to do. He was the first person I turned to for advice not only only on photography but various other topics from accountancy to DIY to home security (he kept a 3-foot long Maglite torch under his bed in case of burglars!).

For a few years in the early 1990s I would constantly go over to his house in south London. We would often go to events together in his jet-propelled black Saab rocket (my little Nissan Micra just didn’t cut the mustard with Mike). Defying gravity and the laws of the land we would race to various stadiums around the country talking pictures non-stop. Then after we would speed home dissecting the day’s event and how we did. We were young, free and single and having a ball.

Not only was Mike so generous and kind but he was also extremely funny. Just one example of this I can remember was at an FA Cup Final in the mid 1990s. Sitting next to him right by the pitch was a friend of his wearing a photographers bib and a Nikon camera. What was amazing was that Mike had blagged his friend into the showpiece match of the year. Even more amazing his friend was totally blind! I was giggling all match. 

At that time, Mike was supremely fit because he cycled so much. Often he would cycle to jobs on his bike and shock people wearing his tight black Lycra shorts. Remember, this was a time when Britain certainly wasn’t a cycle friendly nation.

Unfortunately in the latter years I didn’t see so much of him. But whenever I did see him, always wearing that big smile and Nikon round the neck, we would promise to go for a beer and reminisce about the old times. This was the same the last time I saw him at Wimbledon this year. So gutted I didn’t get to do that.

In fact I don’t think I ever properly said a big enough thank you to him for what he did for me and being such a brilliant bloke. I can imagine him looking down at us now chuckling away. Round his neck would be a Nikon F3 and a manual focus 180mm 2.8 (his all-time favourite lens, wide open obviously).

Bet it makes a good overhead from up there Mike!