One sunny day I came to the BBC’s London Headquarters in Portland Place to take photographs of John Peel, a legendary music presenter on Radio One. I listened to his programmes for many years. As we know, the voices of radio presenters live in our homes and their personalities are often better known to us than those of our next-door neighbours. To my joy John Peel was as natural and authentic as I’d imagined. But first he apologized for being a bit late for our appointment, the reason being that he was playing football with his friends.
I just smiled.
Then he invited me to his office, which was tiny, with records all over the place. He immediately started to play music by an unknown band, an album he’d bought at the street market in Amsterdam couple of days earlier. Funnily enough I knew the place well. It was close to the studio where I’d photographed musicians from the band Herman Brood & his Wild Romance.
While I was taking this portrait, he told me that years before, once a week, he would send a recording of his late-night programme to the Polish Radio. At that moment I realised that I’d been listening to his choice of music, if not his voice, in my darkroom in Krakow during the years of communist rule. I thanked him for this gesture of giving us, locked behind the Iron Curtain, a glimpse of another world.