RIP Reg Johnson

Reg Johnson, iconic Lancastrian producer and somebody I photographed over 10 years ago passed away very recently and I wanted to post the portrait we created together as a mark of respect.

Reg had  been raising Goosnargh geese, chicken and ducks at Swainson House on the edge of the Ribble Valley with his step-brother, Bud Swarbrick, since the 1960s. In that time, they had won enough awards to fill one of their barns. The list of chefs queuing up to use their poultry reads like a who’s who of the restaurant world: Michel Roux Jnr, Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsey and Raymond Blanc, to name a few. All this success was based on a simple theory: ‘An unhappy bird is a tough bird. A happy bird is a tasty bird.’

I had been commissioned by Nigel Haworth of Northcote Manor and The Great British Menu fame to create a collection of portraits of regional producers for the launch of the Ribble Valley Inns venture which is going from strength to strength today and the portrait of Reg and his Ducks was part of that collection. The shot itself was a gamble with the whole image being completely back lit, shot to HP5 black and white roll film on a Hassleblad 503cw but we decided between us the gamble was worth it. As I recall Reg was claiming that the shot wouldn’t have happened without his encouragement which I do remember some ribbing at the time but anybody who knows anything about portraiture knows its a collaboration between photographer and sitter.

The image itself is still one I’m very proud to have taken and was shortlisted in the Observer Food Monthly portrait awards in 2005 .

RIP Reg Johnson !

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