But actually, and it’s hard to say this as a man who’s spent his working life working with words, it’s the pictures I recall with even greater fondness, not least because I remember also the circumstances in which they arose.
As ever we were late. I’d been meaning to get a shoot of Stirling in the bag for months but for reasons varying from incompetence to indolence I’d done nothing about it until the last minute. By then I knew Moss quite well, but only from a working perspective and absolutely not as the friend he would become. But there was no question of just bumping the story back an issue: his birthday was on September 17th, which just happened also to be the day on which Motor Sport went on sale.
So I rang him up, he told me he was here, there and everywhere as usual and asked in rather clipped tones why I’d not enquired earlier. In short he said it would not be possible and that was the end of the conversation. At which stage I think I rather panicked. And I was still panicking when the telephone rang. It was Susie Moss. If I could get a photographer there the following morning we could have ten minutes. She was very sorry but that’s all the time there was.
So I called Charles Best, the best portrait photographer with whom I have worked, and prayed he was available. He was. He liked the idea of ten minutes even less than me but if we could get just one shot for the cover, that would do: we could fill the story itself with archive imagery.
But Charlie didn’t get ten minutes. He got two hours, after which Stirling took him to the pub. As for the pictures themselves, well when the Mercedes-AMG F1 team first tweeted about his passing on Sunday, it was accompanied by a photograph from that very shoot from over twenty years ago. By any standards, it was an astonishing set of images.