"Gene was a brilliant printer and a very nice guy. In fact, he was the best printer out of all the guys I knew, and his knowledge of printing was amazing," photographer Terry O'Neill tells BJP.
Gene Nocon started his career in photography in the early 1970s. When he moved to England in 1975, "his expertise in the photographic darkroom was recognized and appreciated," says the Royal Photographic Society in a statement. "He worked for many of the most famous names in the industry, amongst them were Terence Donovan, O'Neill, Linda McCartney, Cecil Beaton [and] Norman Parkinson."
"His name is not readily reconized, but his work has been seen by more people than any one single photographer," says fine art photographer Kelly Fitzgerald, one of Nocon's friends.
In 1980, Nocon became the Ilford Printer of the Year, a recognition that he used "to showcase and highlight the role and importance of the photographer printer with an exhibition called The Photographic Print," Nocon once wrote.
He became a photographic advisor to Prince Andrews and organised the photography for his Royal Wedding with Sarah, the Duchess of York. His portrait of Prince Andrew and Sarah was later used for the Royal Wedding Commemorative Stamp.
When digital started taking over from print, Nocon lamented the loss of the "hub". "Digital has changed the community of photography," he wrote. "There is no 'hub' - no center of activity. The photolab is no more. Digital photographers have no place to go. They pretty much work in isolation. There is no distribution of knowledge."
And while he embraced Photoshop, he pursued his quest to promote the importance of the photolab. "Young photographers are lured by the idea that they can print their own photographs," he wrote. "I've seen some results and frankly I question the standard of the work. Perhaps they had never seen what an actual photographic print looks like. The point is that Photoshop, to the uninitiated, is like trying to use a calculator without any fundamental understanding of math."
Nocon moved to the US in 1990 - which ended his collaboration with O'Neill, says the photographer. He died on 20 November in San Diego, California. A memorial service will be held on 02 December at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, San Diego, California, at 10.30am.
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