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Bacon's Blood of Bonds

The Joy of Painting (and simultaneous overthinking) - Piece Number 2

My next piece from my Upton Park collection depicts people and not bricks and mortar...

This piece is available at auction in my ebay shop - bidding ends Sunday Jan 8 at 7pm.


What made West Ham United special (in the Upton Park era), was the relationships it had with people in and around the club. We may be the only club in history able to make our club photographer famous - Steve Bacon.


Steve was a photographer at the Newham Recorder before working freelance at Upton Park, almost from the moment we won the cup in 1980.


One of Steve's most famous photographs, which is also one of his personal favourites, is the image depicted in my latest painting - piece 2 in my Upton Park collection. A home tie at Upton Park against Preston North End was the match when Alvin Martin hurtled into Billy Bonds, cutting his head and eye. What resulted post-match is far more famous than the game itself...

Steve documents in his autobiography 'There's Only One Stevie Bacon':

I pleaded with him to let me take just one shot and chased him down the corridor until he relented and allowed me a few seconds to get the picture. He even took the trouble to smile. Of course, what I didn't realise until I printed the picture was there was a little trickle of blood running down his nose. It was totally compatible with his reputation for being Captain Courageous.


Photography is an art, and Steve is certainly an artist. To produce an iconic image of one of the club's greatest players is more than just an opportunity taken. That would be overlooking the thousands of images captured all over East London, that got Steve the opportunity to take Bill's photograph in the first place. Furthermore, to gain enough respect to stop Bill in his tracks for a couple of minutes, and keep him from his famous speedy exit home, shouldn't be underestimated either.


I can only dream of a reputation across the fanbase that Steve has enjoyed for decades. I've been lucky to establish relationships with ex-players - but nothing like Steve has. Every single one I have spoken to, insist that Steve was a member of the team, as their official photographer.


I can't improve on Steve's image, but what I can offer in this case is two things extra. One is colour. Press photography was almost entirely black and white until Eddie Shah introduced 'Today' in 1985 - which is another East London story that I won't go into today.

Another is texture. I've used an impasto technique to recreate the drip of blood, and bandage fabric to create something truly unique to own and display on a collectors wall.


Whilst painting this piece, it became clear that it was already my favourite portrait of Bill, but it certainly won't be my last. So this image is about Steve, a trailblazer to someone like me, who produces art, dedicated to a part of the world that is special to us both.



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