Gordon Brooks: a fellow cricket photographer and longtime friend
“Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life, said, “I’m here for you”, and proved it.” — Anonymous
The message left on my phone on the night of June 30 by Charlotte "Molly" Simons brought sad news that my longtime friend, former West Indies cricket photographer Gordon Brooks, had passed away the night before. He was 81.
By the time I heard the message, it was too late to call her back that night, but immediately I was faced with the difficult task of breaking the news to my wife, Carol, who met Gordon in the early 1990s when we went to Barbados to watch a Test match at Kensington Oval. She also considered him a good friend.
He and I met a few years before that, in 1988 in Jamaica — March 12, to be precise — when we sat next to each other in an area designated for the photographers at the first one-day international between West Indies and Pakistan.
I remember the match because it was also Curtly Ambrose's debut. He shared the new ball with Patrick Patterson and took four for 39 off ten overs, while Gus Logie was voted man of the match after scoring 109 not out as West Indies won by 47 runs.
Gordon and I introduced ourselves and have been good friends ever since. The last time we saw each other was when he came to Bermuda in 2018 to see his first Cup Match and stayed with us. By now he was retired and it was something he had been wanting to do for a few years.
“I can't believe it is almost two years already since you first talked about coming,” I told him in an e-mail exchange that year. “Might as well do it now and get it off your bucket list.
“It will be a great experience; there is a real buzz around when the build-up starts about a month before.”
He came to Bermuda more than a week before the match and had a good time, especially at Cup Match, taking in the unique experience of our big two-day sporting event. He also had the opportunity to catch up with some fellow Bajans, including former Bermuda cricket coach George Rock. He was also friends with former cricketers Colin Blades and Winston Reid.
Gordon and I had a strong friendship, helped by our love of cricket and cricket photography. He was one of the top photographers in the Caribbean and one of the founders in 1973 of Barbados' daily newspaper, The Nation, where he was the main cricket photographer.
Before that he was an apprentice to his father, Clarence, and the late Cyprian La Touche Sr at The Barbados Advocate as a photoengraver in the late 1960s. In 1971 he established the Brooks La Touche Photography agency with Cyprian La Touche Jr, with whom he worked on many photo assignments for the Advocate.
When Gordon retired in 2009, sons Enrico and Randy, the latter an outstanding cricket photographer also, continued to manage the photography business. The company marks its 50th anniversary this year.
Gordon's career in cricket photography started in the film and print era when manual-focus cameras were the norm.
I remember visiting Gordon's hotel room in England during one of the matches against England in 1988 and seeing how he turned his bathroom into a darkroom. Film that he had just processed was hanging over the shower rail to dry, and three trays of chemicals in the bathtub for the making of black-and-white pictures. He even had an enlarger with him to make the prints that were then wired to the Nation in time for the next day’s paper.
I processed film and made prints, too, so I appreciated the hard work that went into it. Gordon took it all in stride, always professional as he maintained high standards.
Today, in the digital photography era, photographers have challenges, too, although it is more convenient being able to send photos from a laptop at the ground while the game is still in play.
Gordon produced his book, Caught in Action: 20 years of West Indies Cricket Photography, in 2003.
The book, dedicated to the memory of La Touche, his friend and business partner, contains many outstanding and memorable images from 1981 to 2000. The early 1980s to 1995 saw West Indies as a dominant team in world cricket under captains Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.
Gordon captured it all with his cameras, both in the West Indies and on tours abroad, including the day Brian Lara broke Sir Garry Sobers's Test record of 365 not out with 375 against England at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
Gordon produced another book, The Legacy, with other photographers. It included images from the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean and was published by the Nation.
Gordon worked alongside well-known cricket commentator Tony Cozier at the Nation, and it was Cozier who suggested he go on an international tour in 1984, to England, as his interest in cricket photography grew.
After retiring, Gordon received the Silver Crown of Merit in 2011 for his contribution to photography.
“He enjoyed life to the fullest,” Randy, his youngest son, said. “Work-wise, he was very professional and dedicated and he instilled in us to always make sure that the job is completed, at all costs.”
In addition to his sons, Gordon is survived by wife Ira and daughter Makeba Brooks, a doctor who lives in Bahamas. I spoke to both of them on the phone last week to extend condolences on the passing of their husband and father, a man who has been a good friend of mine for 33 years.
I’ll miss our chats on the phone and via e-mail. Rest in peace, Gordon.
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