And so it seemed when Graham Gough was sent to take a picture of cricket nut Mike Rowley, whose wife Mildred had given him his marching orders over his obsession with the game.
Not merely because Mildred had been granted a divorce for Mike’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’, or even because Mike admitted that cricket came first, and said Mildred would have to ‘make some compromises’ if they were ever to rekindle their marriage.
But because, having been told to leave the family home in Wolverhampton, Mike set up a temporary home – at Stourbridge cricket pavilion. The picture of Mike bedding down in his sleeping bag, beneath a line of shin-pads and bats, is one of Graham’s favourites in a career spanning 67 years.
“That was a fantastic picture, it was on the front page of every national paper in the country,” he remembers.
“I met somebody recently who said he was a friend of his, and that he had been living off the story ever since.”
It is one of the many evocative pictures to feature in a book by former Express & Star chief photographer Graham, which is being reprinted.
Graham, who celebrates his 82nd birthday next week, began his career in 1954 at the former Dudley Herald. He left to work on the Daily Mirror, before returning to the Express & Star in 1974, where he remained until taking early retirement in 2001.
His book, The Black Country Album: 50 Years of Events, People and Places, captures many memorable events over the decades, as well as the social changes that have taken place in the region.
One of his more dramatic pictures was of a notorious rail accident in April, 1977, when the Stourbridge Dodger train, which ran between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town railway stations, failed to stop on reaching its destination. Instead, the train crashed through the buffers and finished up precariously balanced above Foster Street in the town centre, in an image reminiscent of the closing scene in The Italian Job. It was no laughing matter, though, as nine of the 20 passengers on board the train were injured.
Dramatic, for a different reason, is his 1975 picture of veteran steeplejack Les Dunn from Bilston, who was standing on a ladder 175ft above Dudley High Street as he calmly repaired the stonework on Dudley’s St Thomas’s Church.
“I walked up the steps inside the church, and then just stepped out onto the ledge,” he recalls. “It was amazing what he was doing, he didn’t have a helmet or a harness or anything, he was just standing on a ladder in his work clothes.”
In 1980, comedian Larry Grayson, who was one of the biggest stars on television, found time to perform the official opening of Old Hill market. “He was brilliant, he was absolutely great,” says Graham.
“I pictured him a number of times, and he would do anything.”
In February 1996, he photographed an even more famous, but very different customer, at Dudley Market, when the Prince of Wales paid a visit. Charles shared a joke with some of the traders during his visit, where he also voiced his sadness about the deterioration of the town’s 19th century fountain.
Graham captured the last vestiges of a bygone era when he pictured Enville’s last blacksmith Bob Abbis demonstrating his skills to his children. And he captured actors Gordon Corbet and Pat Roach fighting in Netherton for a film about the Tipton Slasher in 1984.
Another famous image was the funeral of Dudley-born football legend Duncan Edwards at the town’s St Francis’s Church. The England and Manchester United star was killed by injuries sustained in the 1958 Munich air crash, and crowds lined the street to see his coffin arrive.
“This picture was taken from the roof of the church,” says Graham.
The Black Country Album: 50 Years of Events, People and Places is on sale at Amazon, Waterstones, or The History Press, at £20.