Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Veteran photographer dies aged 79

Man who caught the faces of Ulster

THE PHOTOGRAPHER who recorded the great and the good of Northern Ireland society in sunshine and in shadow has died.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER who recorded the great and the good of Northern Ireland society in sunshine and in shadow has died.

Leslie Stuart (79) died peacefully at his home in Belfast on Tuesday, leaving a legacy of black and white portraits that is unmatched in Ulster.

Mr Stuart, whose pictures were often published in the Belfast Telegraph, photographed prime ministers, taioseachs, presidents, churchmen, entertainers and sportsmen who made their marks on life in the province.

Starting out as a journeyman photographer he became known as the provinceÕs premier society photographer.

Mr Stuart was born in 1918 in Newry, the son of a Scottish mother and a Yorkshire father. After six months, he was brought to England, where his fatherÕs premature death meant he was raised largely by his mother.

At the age of 16 he returned to Northern Ireland to work for his uncle in the Ashleigh photographic studio on Royal Avenue in Belfast.

He had found his vocation. In 1944 _ a heart murmur kept him from war service _ he opened his own studio in Omagh, then moved to Londonderry, until he returned to Belfast in 1952.

His big break came in 1957, when he was asked to photograph the wedding of the son of the Northern Ireland governor, Lord Wakehurst.

After that, he was able to use the warrant of the Governor on his stationery and became the official Government House photographer until the office was abolished.

That post gave him leg up in Northern IrelandÕs upper echelons, and the quality of his portraits kept him there.

ÒHe was a superb black and white artist, way out ahead of them all in lighting and that sort of thing,Ó said long-time friend artist Rowel Friers.

Mr Stuart photographed four Northern Ireland prime ministers, three taoiseachs, UK prime minister Harold McMillan, three Northern Ireland governors, four Irish presidents and three cardinals.

ÒHe had a great sense of humour and we got on like a house on fire,Ó said Mr Friers. ÒHe was a great personality and had a great way with people.ÓMr Stuart retired from full time work in 1985. Describing his work at the time, he said: ÒItÕs a hobby that has made me a living. IÕm as obsessed with it as ever.ÓHe is survived by his wife, Helen, three sons and two step-children.

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