Dave Hendley.


Piccadilly Line 2013. © Estate of Dave Hendley.

David Secombe:

There are times when The London Column feels like an obituary strand; and last week saw the death of another contributor, one who also happened to be a very dear friend.


King’s Cross Station, 2011. © Estate of Dave Hendley.

Dave Hendley was many things: a photographer, a DJ, teacher, printer, art director, reggae fanatic, mountain bike aficionado, snappy dresser, record collector, record label founder, Leica collector, writer, seaside-dweller, bon viveur … yet he was never a dilettante, he was fully authentic in every one of his diverse activities. I knew him through photography. We were first introduced, sometime in the late 1980s, by our mutual friend the late John Driscoll, as we belonged to a scene that centred around the darkrooms, photographic suppliers and pubs of Clerkenwell and Shoreditch. At that time Dave was a printer and sometime freelance photographer. I didn’t learn the extent of his involvement in music until much later, when he casually showed me a box of prints of portraits of reggae stars that he had taken in the 1970s. It turned out that this unassuming, softly-spoken Londoner was a very considerable force in the reggae scene and played a key role in the dissemination of the music. (Radio 1 Extra played its own tribute to Dave a few days ago, a broadcast that filled a few gaps in my understanding of his musical activities.)  Dave’s Jamaican portraits are wonderful and are their own testament to his devotion to reggae.


It took me a while to catch up with developments but I gradually realised that Dave Hendley had become one of the most contented people I knew. His life on the north Kent coast struck me as nothing short of idyllic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look so totally at peace as Dave was in his garden in Tankerton – or, for that matter, in the bar of the Continental Hotel. And, finally, his work was gaining wider recognition. His Jamaican portraits are being collected into a book and his street photography is being celebrated in Japan, and both of these developments were sources of great satisfaction to him.


In St.James’s Park (early 1970s). © Estate of Dave Hendley.

Amongst Dave’s thousands of photos, this particular one is a special favourite of mine. A picture of two men on a bench in a London park that shows what photography is capable of revealing, or appearing to reveal. We don’t know what the actual relationship between the two men in the photo really is but Dave gives us a novel’s worth of speculation. It manages to be poignant, sinister and hilarious all at the same time, a Pinter play condensed into a twelve by nine and a half inch print.


Dave Hendley in the ‘Tokyo Camera Style’ pages of Nippon Camera, Dec. 2014.

Everyone who knew Dave will have their favourite image of him: working in a darkroom maybe, teaching at St Martin’s certainly, DJ-ing somewhere, riding his bike in the Forest of Blean, wandering a city street with Leicas at the ready, and so on. But whatever he was doing he was always reliably, quintessentially Dave, and he was always exhilarating company. For me he was simply the perfect English gentleman. Decent, level headed, kind, understatedly elegant and elegantly understated, knowledgeable but unpretentious, modest but capable, gently melancholic yet wildly enthusiastic, local yet international – constantly, uniquely himself, whether he was in Tokyo, Trenchtown or Tankerton. He even lived in a bungalow, and you can’t get more English than that. We need more like him in the world; but of course there could only ever be one.


6 Comments on “Dave Hendley.”


    I met Dave twice, introduced to me by Noel Hawks, both times due to Reggae Record business at my home in West Sussex. He arrived in his ancient old 3 series BMW, dressed humbly in a tee shirt and jeans, both visits during the summer of 2004. On his second visit he brought an album of his photographs which my wife and I spent an hour or two going through, punctuating the conversation with questions about the photos, he showed great patience with us, he must have had a thousand conversations about these pics, but never once did he show any sign of boredom. I first saw a load of his snaps at an exhibitor that was put on at The Roundhouse and recognised many of the images from album sleeves familiar to me from my record collection. David Rodigans tribute (24/07/2016) to Dave was the best hour of radio that I have ever listened to, better even than the test match commentaries that I enjoy so much! I learnt so much more about Dave from that broadcast and realised that Dave could have shared all of that with me, but through modesty he didn’t.

  2. What a beautiful tribute. I didn’t know Dave and had never seen his pictures, yet as a photographer and printer of the urban scene in black & white for 35 years I felt an instant rapport. Are there plans to collect Dave’s street photographs in a book? The images shown here are wonderful.

  3. Paul Rennie says:

    Yes, Dave had begun a coupke of projects, book and exhibit, that we will make sure happen

  4. Farewell to a man I barely knew. John O’s drinkin’ sessions in Clerkenwell provided the social flux for the meeting of like minded people with a love of the photographic image. I would’ve remembered talking to him more if it hadn’t’ve been for the Guinness and the like. Seeing the picture of him now summons him through the luminiferous ether of those drink addled night’s benign unction. More salient than this John :’s wake and the gathering of wonderful people paying tribute to a beautiful life, gone. I talked with Dave as much as anyone else there and what pleasant undemanding company that was. The only two people I have talked with since Dave’s passing have been David Secombe, who told me the sad news and Richard Croft to whom I passed on the news. Both men sang his praises, and it seems to be an undeniable truth that the man was loved by everyone he came into contact with and my god that is such a rare and precious thing. R.I.P. Dave, a friend I never knew.

  5. Jonathan Madden says:

    What a lovely tribute David, and what an outstanding set of photographs.
    I do hope that a lasting legacy can be produced in printed form so Dave’s work can be appreciated by a wider audience, thanks for the post.

  6. Gary Wallis says:

    A lovely tribute to a beautiful man I had the pleasure of working with at CSM for many many years. In his last few weeks he made me promise over and over again that I would make sure that his Reggae Show happens at CSM in November. I have a feeling that it is going to turn into something huge x