Our photos reflect a past which is never totally gone, writes Greg Cary.

Greg Cary

Greg Cary

Sports writer

Anything sporting to add? email me at greg@bmag.com.au

Looking through some old photo albums recently I was struck by their ability to transport us through time and space to the very day – the moment – they were taken.

What we had been talking about, the smells, the weather and how we were feeling. All beyond any capacity to guess at how life would ultimately unfold.

A dear friend, Mark Taylor (for many years now one of Brisbane’s finest photographers), believes that “Like the Power of One, a single picture can change public opinion, a country, the world…1/500th of a second captured for posterity.”

Mark used the famous photo of the child running, burning after a napalm strike in Vietnam to make his point. There are many other examples.

One instant, immortalised with no ability to invent, change or interpret. Or forget. This simply is how it was.

When I was small I did a paper run in order to buy those things children want. Bikes, surfboards…and cameras. My camera was fairly basic with pink edges. I was probably eight or nine and took it everywhere – who knows what history I might need to capture? Or whom I might meet.

My football loyalties have been a little flexible down the years but, at that time, I was a St George fan.

They were the glory days and giants walked the land. Raper, Langlands, Smith … and, of course, the mighty Gasnier. How wonderful it would be to have a photo of my hero, but how to do it?

The mission could not have been better planned. With camera and new film firmly in place (younger readers can google “film”), I set out with a certain excitement (and trepidation) to take the picture of Reg Gasnier.

I rode the bus to the ground and waited two hours outside the players’ entrance. I knew he had to pass by but I wasn’t so sure how I (or he) would respond.

And then, arm in arm with his wife, he headed my way. Slacks, shirt, tie, sports jacket. I froze. He smiled, saw the camera, hinting that I should say something. I did: “Mr Gasnier I was wondering if, well, you know, maybe, is it possible that I, um…”

He put his hand on my shoulder and asked my name.

“Greg, Mr Gasnier “. He was wonderful. ”Nice Camera, Greg. Would you like to take my picture?” His wife joined in. “Why don’t you stand with Reg and I’ll take the photo.”

My spine still tingles recalling her kindness. And his.

He thanked me and then disappeared into the change rooms. Never met him again. He was so young, so brilliant, such an athlete. I recalled all of this when speaking with a senior official from St George the other day. It seems that Reg is very unwell – has been for some time.

Life has not been kind in recent years to the man they called Puff (the magic dragon). Who would’ve thought in those days now long gone that he could get old?

The fact of his rugby league immortality, sadly, does not transfer to life itself. You will have your own photos enjoy them.

They reflect a past that, in ways we don’t fully understand, is never totally gone. Thanks for the photo Mr Gasnier – and the memories.