by Donna Begley
We call that person who has lost a father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost a wife. But that person who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.”
|Nicky Wright died January 17, 2000 in England of complications from pneumonia.|
A great loss to all who knew him and to the literary world. Sadly missed by those of us lucky enough to call him “friend”. He was like a passing star, like a comet that left behind something for each of us…….
Nicky Wright was born and raised in Hampshire, England, where his love of big U.S. cars alienated him from his Jaguar-obsessed friends. He has published articles and photo features in numerous magazines, including High Performance Mopar, Car Collector, and Special Interest Autos, and is the author of twenty-some books on subjects ranging from Auburns, to Ferraris, to Mustangs, to Vipers. When he was not traveling the country photographing cars, he lived and wrote in Marshall, Michigan.
Prior to photographing his first love, automobiles, Nicky became well known in Great Britain for his excellent photography of such notables as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Beach Boys, the Everley Brothers, Fats Domino, The Byrds, The Monkees, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington – to mention a few. Some other names that will be recognized include movie notables James Coburn, Van Heflin, and English comedians Dad’s Army and Macrombre and Wise. He also had the pleasure of photographing Bobby Kennedy and Frank Sinatra at a meeting when Bobby was campaigning for the Presidency.
Nicky’s most treasured photography memory occurred when he was working with the Warburg Institute, an affiliate of the University of London, that was researching Italian history. The Institute collected old books and artifacts and restored them. During the seven years Nicky was employed in their photography department, he was picked to photograph the Queen Mother, who was Chancellor of the University of London as well as the mother of Queen Elizabeth. A definite honor for the young photographer – Nicky was in his 20’s. The photography was done, not one-on-one, but during a public appearance of the Queen Mother.
At the adjournment of the appearance, it was customary for everyone to line up to be presented to the Queen Mother. Nicky followed suit. When his turn came, he ran over to meet the fabulous lady clutching his photography equipment, so honored and excited, he forgot the customary bow. The lovely lady did not acknowledge his omission, and spoke extensively with Nicky thanking him for his photography professionalism in remaining as nearly invisible as possible and not at any time interrupting the appearance with his cameras.
Nicky’s photography was so outstanding that the University of London had all his photographs placed into an album which was leather-bound and presented to the Queen Mother in Nicky’s name. He received a glowing letter from the Queen Mother herself thanking him for an outstanding job well done.
Nicky’s first visit to the United States came in the 60’s when he was commissioned to travel with The Rolling Stones American tour. He had always had a love for photographing the American automobiles and knew that one day he would come back to the States in that capacity. First he had to make a name for himself in England. When he returned home, he began working with the University of London.
Nicky’s father had subscribed to the Automobile Quarterly that showed ‘shiny pictures of beautiful American cars’ which Nicky devoured, and he told his father, “one day I will have my pictures of beautiful cars in that magazine.” His father took him to all nearby car shows and as Nicky grew older, he never missed a car show if he could get there.
Around 1975, Nicky went to work for Knave Magazine photographing ‘pin-up’ pics. During that time, at a car show, he saw an American car called an Auburn and fell in love with it. He researched its history and for about 75 cents American money, bought a 1934 typewriter at a garage sale, typed out the story of the Auburn and presented it with photographs to the editor of Knave Magazine. The editor loved it and asked him to do five more articles like it. Thus began his career as an American automobile photographer and author.
When Classic Car editors saw his work in the Knave Magazine, they called him from California to ask him to do a monthly column with pictures and stories about cars. In 1977, Hamelin Books of England sent Nicky to the United States to photograph autos for many other authors of books as well as classic car magazines. Shortly after that he started free-lancing, doing car books for Color Library International where his first book Post War American Classics which was published in 1981.
His unique photography shows up in such magazine as: (English) Classics and Sports Cars; Auto Car; Thoroughbred and Classic Cars; Custom Car; Fast Lane; and the magazine that instilled in him his love for American cars – Automobile Quarterly as well as many others; the French magazine Nitro; Australia’s Restored Cars and Wheels, and America’s Collectible Automobiles, Hi Performance Mopar, Pontiac Magazine, Muscle Cars Magazine, Car Collector and others too numerous to mention.
Nicky’s plans included continuing doing what he loved most – researching and photographing American cars and sharing his talent with the world. He was currently setting up a picture library – Nicky Wright Studios, Ltd. – in the NATMUS, (National Auto and Truck Museum, in Auburn, Indiana), to compliment his English library, of some 50,000 automobile photographs and slides. This library will be completed and will soon be available to those who wish to use Nicky’s unique photography to enhance their publications. The use of these pictures will be to raise capital to keep the library going and to keep alive the memory of a lovely human being.
Nicky had done some articles as well as photography for national magazines on another love – American comic books, and had just finished The Golden Age of the American Comic Book which is now available at your favorite book store.
Nicky is survived by his children: Sharon and Julian who live in England and Ambre, Britainy, and David in America as well as numerous friends scattered over two continents.
Nicky was truly a remarkable human being with boundless energy – and a good friend.
-written by two of his fans – Donna and Dennis Begley