Sports organisations and campaigners were this week mourning the loss of a ground-breaking disabled photographer who leaves behind an “enormous legacy” of pictures that captured many of the great moments of Paralympic sport.
Graham Bool, who died suddenly on 17 September, represented Britain at wheelchair basketball at three Paralympic games but later established a peerless reputation as a photographer specialising in disability sport and the Paralympics.
He had been running photography shops and working in public relations when friends persuaded him to take advantage of his skill with a camera and use his own experience as a former disabled sportsman to specialise in taking photographs of disability sport.
He launched his own photography business, Graham Bool Photography, covering every Paralympics from the 1992 games in Barcelona until the Beijing games of 2008, and was looking forward to shooting London in 2012.
Tony Sainsbury, the former team manager of Britain’s wheelchair basketball team, said Paralympic games and disability sport would “never be the same again”.
He said Bool had captured “the great moments of Paralympic sport” and had “left an enormous legacy and a vacuum which it will be near impossible to fill”.
ParalympicsGB also paid tribute to his work and said he had “worked tirelessly to capture disability sport at all levels in his photography”.
Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson said Bool made “a massive contribution” to the development of Paralympic and disability sport in Britain, covering not only the major events but the lower-profile national and junior games as well.
He was an ever-present figure throughout her sporting career, and was usually the first non-athlete she would speak to after crossing the finish line, she said.
“Everybody knew him. He was very open, very friendly, he was patient, he took time to find out what athletes were doing.”
She also pointed to his dedication and hard work and said he was always there “first thing in the morning until last thing at night”, as well as being “incredibly ethical” in his work.
She added: “It is sad for the sport because who else is going to have that kind of passion? I think the most important thing is he was a good photographer. His pictures were lovely. And he understood disability sport because he had been there.”
Phil Friend, one of the country’s leading disability consultants and campaigners and a close friend of Bool since they attended the same special school together from the late 1950s, said he was “kind” and “generous” and “loved being with other people”, and was a wonderful father who had brought up his two children alone after the death of his beloved wife, Fran.
Friend said: “He was one of the biggest human beings I have met. He had a huge smile and a big laugh and he just had this incredible amount of energy.”
He said Bool’s archive of sports photographs, recording the growth and development of disability sport, would provide an incredible legacy.
Another close friend, Malcolm Tarkenter, chair of British Wheelchair Basketball, said: “Graham was a giant of a man in all respects, he had time for everybody.”
He added: “As a young player he took me under his wing and he was a big brother to me and our friendship lasted a lifetime. I can’t believe he is not here now.”
British Wheelchair Basketball said Bool was “the ultimate gentleman” and “a principled man”, who was “happy to give advice and has been tremendously supportive to players and young people coming into sport as well as a sound counsel to directors, chairmen and chief executives across a number of Paralympic sports and bodies”.
Bool also photographed many major disability events for organisations such as RADAR.
Liz Sayce, RADAR’s chief executive, said he was “a great professional and a great human being” and “the greatest pleasure to work with”.
He leaves two children, Roger and Jessica, and a partner, Toni.
To view some of Graham Bool’s photographs, visit his website at: www.grahamboolphotography.co.uk
21 September 2010