Sir Mohinder Dhillon – His Camera, His Life

Photo: Citizen

In the last week of January, I went to visit my girlfriend at work. I’d never been and didn’t know exactly who she worked for. After getting lost she decided to wait for me on the side of the road and we drove back to her workplace. She gave me a book and told me it was written by her employer and invited me in to meet him. Would I say no?

We walked into this beautiful, cosy and warm home, which was also where his office was. Behind the desk sat a friendly-looking octogenarian, with a walker next to his desk, which he explained was to help him move around since he had had an injury after a bad accident years ago. I thanked him for the book and told him I’d give him feedback.  

I looked around the open space and against one side of the wall was a bookshelf and at the top sat a vintage film camera, and that’s when I fully understood the title of the autobiography in my bag – My Camera, My Life. Excited to see my girl after so long, I hadn’t really taken a proper look at it.

I had the privilege of sitting down with him behind his desk and go through the manuscript (from beginning to end) of his now published coffee table book that showcases his photographic oeuvre. Pages and pages that display his craft, energy, fear, bravery and how through his lens he ran a thread of politics, war, and celebrations of prominent political figures across the world.

Amongst many of the figures he photographed are Wangari Maathai, Jomo Kenyatta, Robert Mugabe, Julius Nyerere, Idi Amin, Kipchoge Keino, Mau Mau leaders, Tom Mboya, James Gichuru, Muammar Mohammed Gadaffi and Pele. These are only a few of the people whose photographs, stories and events he captured and who form a collection of work that made an incredible and legendary work of photographic and storytelling art.

On Monday, the 9th of March, Sir Mohinder Dhillon passed away after a short illness.

I am so grateful to have had that wonderful peek into his thrilling, 60-year long career in photojournalism and film documentary. It was a great experience to be around someone who lived so fully and with vigour and courage and has so much to show for it and to leave behind. I look forward to reading his biography, My Camera, My Life and the rest of his work.

Rest in peace, Sir Dhillon.

Read more about him on Mohinder Dhillon

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