Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Daily Archives: September 20, 2011

Paul Sims

I have been putting off writing this for more than a week because the thought of it is so painful.

On Friday 23rd at 3pm I will be at the funeral of my great friend, teacher and mentor Paul Sims.

Paul was quite simply one of the nicest people I have ever known, that I was lucky to have known him for more than 30 years was my great fortune.

If you needed help he didn’t say no, whether it was something to do with his exceptional practical skills in engineering, woodworking, motor mechanics, electronics in fact anything. He had more knowledge about the practice and theory of photography than anyone I ever met, his printing skills in black and white, C-Type (colour negative) or Cibachrome (from slides) were unparalleled. When he turned his prodigious mind to digital he embraced it in a way that others take to religion.¬† He read books on the digital practise as thick as any major religion boasts. His understanding far outstripped anything you could comfortably comprehend, but then he distilled his knowledge down for others to manage. Never has the phrase, “when he died it was like a library burned down” been more appropriate. It could be said he was a perfectionist, but actually he was more than that, the concept of fit for the purpose didn’t enter his head, it had to be as good as it could be.

Speaking of Paul and religion in the same sentence is inappropriate, he didn’t believe in a superior being, why would he? He understood that a human being is as good as it gets and like his machines, just need nurturing to to get the best from them. So Paul helped everyone; this week I have been told countless times what a nice and generous man he was. He gave of his time, his knowledge, he never grumbled, I never heard him raise his voice but he was not a push over. If he disagreed with you he gently, quietly¬† reasoned and helped you to understand his position and generally you came around to his point of view.

Paul had a humour that was dry, no other word for it. He didn’t use any form of cruelty to get laughs but his asides and wry thoughts were so funny, his gentle nature pervaded his conversation but he was never dull. Paul had many passions, and coffee was one of them, just this week someone reminded me of Paul’s coffee dictate, never pour boiling water on the coffee. That is real coffee, properly made. Anything that had ‘instant’ attached was not coffee it was a beverage. To see him drive an espresso machine was a joy and the nectar he produced ambrosia.

The world is a poorer place without my friend Paul, he will be missed.