THE life of a genius behind the lens has been celebrated by colleagues who paid tribute to their friend with a “titanic passion” for the North-East.

Former Northern Echo photographer and much-loved grandfather, Colin Theakston, died earlier this month, aged 84, after earning the respect of his workmates across the region.

Mr Theakston captured thousands of memorable images during his 44 years of service with the newspaper, before spending his retirement in Barnard Castle.

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Ex-colleagues remembered him as the quiet and considerate man that regularly beat packs of North-East photographers to the picture that every publication had to have.

Mr Theakston’s career was overseen by The Northern Echo’s former editor, Sir Harold Evans, from 1963 to 1967.

Sir Harold hoped to take Mr Theakston’s talents to London after the photographer had contributed a powerful image of North-East history to his bible for press photographers – Pictures on a Page.

Now editor-at-large for Reuters in New York, Sir Harold said: “As soon as I got to the Sunday Times I offered him a staff position, alas he turned it down for family reasons.

“He was a lovely man and had a touch of genius about him.

“I have treasured the print he made for Pictures on a Page, a launch on the Tyne of a destroyer, men in the corner, atmospheric mist giving a sense of distance.

“It is also suggestive of North-East phlegm and ship building. There has been a gala launching and the flag flies, but have you seen my matches, Fred?

“I would gladly cooperate with The Northern Echo to preserve his photographic legacy. He along with Ian Wright and Bill Oliver captured the social history of the 60s revolution.”

A fellow Northern Echo and Darlington-born photographer, Ian Wright, also remembered Mr Theakston for his distinctive approach to capturing the moment.

The photographer turned lecturer, Mr Wright, said: “Colin was the quiet man always on the fringes when a gathering of press photographers met to cover a major event – a royal or Presidential visit, a disaster, a murder.

“The reason – first, he was always seeking out something different from the pack.

“He was a considerate and compassionate photographer – not in the subjects face or kicking in doors.

“He had a titanic passion for the people of the region and his knowledge and deep understanding of its people was reflected in his stunning images, particularly miners and ship workers.

“He was never rushed, always calm under pressure. This enabled him the opportunity to produce the type of images so admired by his editor, the now renowned Sir Harold Evans, who had this image framed on his wall at the Echo. Today it hangs in his Manhattan study.”

Friends of the Theakston family and former colleagues are invited to attend a service for Mr Theakston at Darlington Crematorium on Friday, July 29, at 2.45pm.