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Former South London Press photographer scoops top award for Portrait of the Year – South London News

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BY TOBY PORTER
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A former South London Press photographer’s pictures of soldiers on a flight between camps has scooped one of the top awards in his field.

Peter Jordan, from East Dulwich, won the British Press Photographers Association’s Portrait Photographer of the Year Award.

His other claim to fame is two Newsweek covers – one of the badly beaten body of Steve Biko which helped trigger an international outcry over apartheid.

Peter took the winning pictures as members of 2nd Battalion Para-shoot Regiment flew from Cyprus to Jordan in a Hercules troop carrier.

Peter, 75, booted out of Rhodesia in 1975 for a single historic shot which made the front of Newsweek, said: “I’m very proud to win the award – it’s nice to have your pictures recognised among all the greats of Fleet Street.

“I was commissioned to photograph a military training exercise of the 16th Air Support Brigade alongside Jordanian special forces.

I joined the Second Battalion Parashoot Regiment which flew from Cyprus to Jordan over the Mediterranean Sea.

Peter Jordan with his Portrait of the Year award

“The pictures almost look like they were shot in a studio – but the reality was far from that.

“I was the last on board and had to climb over the top of people’s heads to get into position. It was very hectic. I was lucky that there was some fantastic Mediterranean light coming in through two windows, which really helped create these pictures.

“I sent them to the paras afterwards and they loved them, one of them said he’d had his picture printed out onto canvas.”

Peter, who worked for the South London Press from 1992-96, was in the army from 1978 to 1982 before becoming a news photographer.

Born in 1946, Peter had sold his first photograph at the age of 15 in 1961 to The Western Morning News.

It was called Icicles on Jacob’s Ladder for the 21st century equivalent of about £14.

By the age of 25, he had travelled South-east Asia and Australia.

He worked for The Rhodesian Herald, then moved to the Johannesburg Star which sent him on assignment to cover the bloody Angolan war in May 1975.

The following year, he freelanced for Photographers International in Rhodesia, then under the leadership of Ian Smith and embroiled in a racial civil war.

Peter took a picture of an armed black Rhodesian soldier advancing in front of his white fellow-soldiers – a portent of the country’s future.

In June 1976, Newsweek used the picture as their cover – Peter’s first. It also earned him deportation by Smith’s regime.

He arrived back in South Africa the same day the Soweto riots broke out, and was asked to do assignments for AP, Newsweek and European publications.

Main Picture and above: Two of Peter Jordan’s winning pictures for the Portrait of the Year award for 2021. They are soldiers of the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment during their flight to Cyprus for a dawn parachute jump into Jordan on an exercise with the Jordanian Special Forces in June 2021

In 1977, his pictures of the badly beaten body of Steve Biko in his coffin at the family home got him another Newsweek cover.

It was considered by many to have marked the beginning of the end of apartheid.

He later worked for TIME, the world’s largest news magazine, for more than 13 years and moved back to London.

During the Iran/Iraq war, in 1982, he had an exclusive photo session with Saddam Hussein and had a world exclusive on the frontline with the Iraqi army.

He was later among the first on the scene after the horrific bombing of the US Marine base in Beirut on October 23, picking up awards from Overseas Press Club of America and the New York Guild of Journalists.

His photograph of Margaret Thatcher in the Chieftain tank, headscarf on and goggles down is still regularly used today.

He won another award from World Press Photo in Amsterdam for his coverage of Central American conflict in 1987.

In 1989, he won a Gold Medal at The International Photo Expo in Budapest.

 

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