Executives from the newspaper industry have led tributes to former Birmingham Post picture editor Paul Vokes who died after a long illness at the age of 67.
His range included hard news, glamour and sport – and his last jobs on the road prior to running the desk were Princess Diana’s funeral and the 1997 Natwest Trophy cricket final at Lord’s which Warwickshire lost to Essex.
Since leaving the company, the Birmingham City fan, an action man with a love of yachting, had worked as a freelance, doing everything from weddings to PR work and special interest. Paul’s philosophy made for an interesting twist on the old saying that a ‘picture can tell 1,000 words’.
He believed the picture wasn’t the whole story – it should just be the picture and not a means of covering everything that a reporter would write about.
“A picture isn’t meant to do all of the job, the words and pictures should just complement each other,” he’d say.
Paul’s career spanned the old way of doing things with the new. From having to knock on someone’s door in order to develop a picture in their kitchen, to sending images over instantly using digital technology. Under his leadership, the Birmingham Post developed one of the country’s first digital picture desks albeit at the expense of losing the skills of traditional technicians whose work he admired. Former colleague Jeremy Pardoe said: “Paul was very demanding, which is a good thing. For him, it was all about getting a good picture – sometimes almost at any cost. He’d say: ‘We’ll find a space for it’, whereas some picture editors will say ‘as long as it fits’. When he was doing pictures himself he might disappear for half a day and nobody would known where he was, but he would often come back with a really good picture.”
Former Birmingham Post editor Dan Mason, currently running a training course in China, said: “News of his death is very sad and brings back so many memories. I went to see Paul the end of last year. While he was not a well man, he was just so happy to have his family who kept his hopes alive.”
Paul Cole, former news editor of the Sandwell Evening Mail and now executive editor of the Birmingham Mail and Sunday Mercury, said: “Paul was a maverick, a wild card talent with a knack of coming up with imaginative images.
“Paul will be greatly missed. There are too few characters in journalism these days as the number crunchers take over, and it’s always sad when we lose another one.”
Paul, who had been battling kidney cancer for five-and-a-half years, is survived by his wife, Emma, three children and four grandchildren.
True to Paul’s style, his funeral, at Sutton Coldfield Crematorium on Wednesday, was to the soundtrack of Rolling Stones classics Paint It Black, Miss You and It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It). Donations are to John Taylor Hospice, which cared for him.