Just Monte…

I was saddened to learn recently of the sad passing of Monte Fresco who died aged 77.

The job, specialist sports photographer is quite commonplace now. I imagine all the national newspapers have a photographer dedicated to sport and there are of course picture agencies who cover just that field. It was not always so.

Monte Fresco was one of the exceptions.  The name may not be familiar to you unless you were a Daily Mirror reader of a few years back. If you were and also a sports fan then you would have seen his name almost every day under a sports picture at the back end of the paper. Football, boxing, the Olympics, Monte covered them all. For over 30 years he was the Daily Mirror Chief Sports Photographer

When I first started out as a young lad on a picture agency I had no interest and very little idea of what I should be looking for at the sporting venues I was assigned to cover. Monte, always cheerful was happy to point me in the right direction whenever I looked lost. For this I thank him.

I will leave it up to my great mate and writer Brian James to sum him up in his own eloquent way.

       the death last week of Monte Fresco will have produced a grimace of regret on once-famous faces all over Britain. Monte was the nation’s best-known sports photographer, his professional skill was matched by a personal Cockney charm and wit which allowed him entry to the games’ top tables. Perched on a box behind the goal at soccer  he and many top keepers passed away quieter moments “sledging”  with Fresco’s banter having all in earshot giggling. Such light moments did not impact on his skill: his camera also recorded many startling images; one when the terrifying Vinny Jones reached behind his back to squeeze an agonised Paul Gascoigne in the most delicate of places, and two, when the tough Scot Bremner of Leeds clashed with the tougher Scot Mackay of Spurs and was held dangling from his shirtfront until he got the message.  Fresco, always jovial, was no boozer, preferring English tea to beer or wine, but this not always available behind the iron curtain of the sixties… warmish water was the best on offer.  Until one day in the foul hotel where England and its press were billeted, Fresco acted. He had brought a small tin kettle and plugs to connect with Polish mains. He carried tea bags and sugar. All that was lacking was milk. Fresco, ignoring efforts to shoo him away, pressed into the hotel kitchen, convulsed the staff with his mime of a coy, crouching milkmaid and emerged with a white-filled jug.  But we had no fridge, the temperature was blistering…so how to preserve the milk until morning? “Fill a bath with cold water, close the curtains and open the window.” ordered Fresco. But not HIS bath . Thus Brian Moore, ITV sports commentator returned to his room after dinner to confront a draw-pinned note: “Her Majesty’s Press. Fridge. No entry”  Moore took it well……” just Monte…”

Text © Geoff Wilkinson & Brian James.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *