David Warner Ellis (1939 – 2005) left Ruabon Grammar School at an early age after a very promising start and went to work down the pit. His mother was mortified! But he absolutely loved it and talked about the coal seams and the rock, the camaraderie and atmosphere with great affection many years on. However, he found his feet twitching at around age 19 and wandered off to London, where he took a job in a factory shovelling Sugar Puffs. A little further down the line, living just off Baker Street in a house next door to Jimi Hendrix, he joined the BBC in 1961, becoming a member of the Photography Club whilst working as a set dresser; His life’s passion commenced.
In the early 1970s he worked with David Redfern and Redferns Music Picture Library exhibits many of David’s pictures taken during this period. After leaving Redferns David worked as a freelance photographer and was published in Time Out, Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek, The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Observer, Tatler, Vogue, ‘History of the Rolling Stones’, ‘History of the Beatles’, Uncut, Classic Rock, Daily Express, Q Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Total Guitar Magazine, Mojo and many other publications worldwide. His photographs appear on album sleeves and posters for The Who, the New York Dolls, Nils Lofgren, Vangelis, T-Rex and many more.
During the punk era David gave up attending live rock concerts “I was fed up coming home covered in spit and I hated the music”… and turned his eye (and his camera) to classical music and opera and for the last 20 or so years of his life he photographed just about every production at the English National Opera, at the Royal Opera House and other venues.
Not for David the designer camera bag with matching, multi-pocketed waistcoat filled with every type of film, a dozen different lenses and a tripod roped to his back! He was a minimalist and his tools of trade were two cameras, a light meter, a small collection of filters, maybe another lens and just enough film to complete the shoot. When the film ran out David went home and put his other hat on; that of alchemist. David also worked for the British Board of Film Censors, translating/vetting Welsh films – although he wasn’t over employed.
David lived in Clerkenwell for 40 years and in his darkroom produced thousands of black and white prints. He was a free and original spirit who captured that most explosive era in the history of music.
David is survived by Maggie and their two daughters Sian and Bethan, both photographers in their own right; they were in the dark room as soon as they could stand and David was so very proud of them following in their Dad’s footsteps.
The Association’s grateful thanks to Maggie, David’s partner, for allowing us to use copyright materials from David’s website (www.davidwarnerellis.co.uk) and for supplying additional personal details of David’s life.