‘Living dangerously,’ and leaving a wonderful legacy
7 months ago, 13 Jan 09:54
“Go on, live dangerously.” This was Terence Spencer’s favourite phrase, and one that his daughter Cara would hear time and time again throughout her life. Terence was a man who heeded his own advice. As a Royal Air Force pilot during World War II, he conducted reconnaissance missions on Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs. After surviving two stints as a prisoner of war and a near-death explosion over the sea, Terence went on to become a photojournalist, contributing to Life and People magazines. Terence’s career was diverse. He spent time with musical legends like The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Sting. He photographed Princess Diana and Prince Charles. He shot portraits of Louis Armstrong, Richard Branson and Goldie Hawn. But he also covered pivotal moments in modern history: the Vietnam War, the Congo Civil War and the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. Before passing away in 2009, Terence asked his daughter Cara to keep his work alive. Through a photo exhibition called ‘Living Dangerously,’ Cara has done just that. From documenting life backstage with The Beatles to Jomo Kenyatta’s release from prison, ‘Living Dangerously’ is an exhibition that traverses continents and cultures. It is on display at the Nairobi National Museum until January 17, 2018. Saturday Nation sat down with Cara Spencer to learn more about her father, his life’s work and the lessons we can all take away from it. Your father was British but you were born in South Africa. How did your family end up there? After the Second World War, my dad was offered a job to fly an airplane to South Africa. When he got there, the guy whose plane it was said “do you want to become my private pilot?” My mother, Lesley Brook, was a British actress. She was on tour in South Africa, and they met on a blind date. They stayed for 15 years, on a farm between Johannesburg and Pretoria. How did Terence Spencer make the transition from pilot to photojournalist? During the war, dad did a lot of reconnaissance flying. They’d have to photograph sites they were planning on bombing. At the end of the war, the British officers had to go to Germany and decommission the German airplanes, and he stole an aerial camera. So when he got the job flying to South Africa, he took the camera with him. I understand your father documented some of the most pivotal moments in modern history. Yes. He covered the US Marines landing in Vietnam. He was in his 40s by then, and he was marching 18-20 miles a day with the Marines. He followed Nelson Mandela on the run. A great friend of ours was the lawyer who defended Mandela in the Rivonia Trial and kept Mandela in a safe house for a while. He also covered the Congo revolution, which was absolutely horrific. Were you ever concerned for your father’s safety? I remember being really worried for him. Dad was away for weeks, often months on end. ...
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