Forest of Galtres Camera Club

50 Years Behind The Lens

Paul Berriff


One Man - One Amazing Life!

A Survivor!

Galtres Centre 31st October


One man should not, by the law of averages, survive so many near death experiences in one lifetime. Such a man is Paul Berriff, award winning documentary film maker and photographer, who delivered aspects of his career to an audience on Saturday evening that at times was just simply spell bound by the images shown on the screen. Paul spoke in the only way a true son of Leeds can, understated and with a dry sense of humour.


A wonderful black and white image can be found on the back cover of a TIME publication celebrating the 70th year of Paul McCartney. Here, a very young McCartney on stage was photographed by Paul when he himself was still a teenager.


During those early years, Paul Berriff was learning just what his camera could do and he did so amongst the rising stars of the day as they appeared in different venues in Yorkshire. As well as the young Beetles, there were The Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, Jimmy Hendrix, Mariannne Faithful, The Hollies and more. He also photographed in the streets of Leeds when vehicles were few, children played on the streets and the washing was strung between houses. These black and white images began the journey through Paul’s career photographing then filming real people in real time situations accompanied by little, if any, commentary -just the sights and sounds of the events.


Lengthy assignments enabled Paul to be in privileged positions to film and record momentous events. He was in the first helicopter to arrive at the Piper Alpha disaster; he filmed the blazing oil well fires of Kuwait, and spent a year filming the life of a space shuttle crew! Filming a practice landing from inside a specially converted aircraft was particularly challenging. The crew were strapped in, Paul was filming at the same time as being weightless!


Inside the shuttle, he filmed the crew being taken aboard and helped into position ready for lift-off. He may not have travelled into space with them but his camera did.


Those near death experiences! He is the survivor of a Nicaraguan volcanic eruption, a serious helicopter crash and then 9/11!


He was in New York filming in one location when word came that the twin towers had been hit. He, his sound recordist and producer made for the area. They began filming the Deputy Chief Fire Commissioner as he directed operations. They were right beneath the South Tower. Paul pointed his camera upwards as the initial stages of collapse unfolded. Then they ran! He was still filming, running one way pointing the camera the other. Then the footage everyone saw on Saturday showed the disintegration into dust, debris and mayhem until the camera stopped running. Paul was knocked unconscious. But he survived and so did the film footage within a badly damaged camera.


There was so much unbelievable footage to absorb. A great way to celebrate 50 years of Forest of Galtres Camera Club.