Obituary: Gavin Verden-Anderson, award-winning underwater photographer and photojournalist

Gavin Verden- Anderson
Gavin Verden- Anderson
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Gavin Verden-Anderson, photographer and photojournalist. Born: 17 December 1964 in Broughty Ferry. Died: 11 April 2018 in Inverclyde, aged 53.

Gavin Verden-Anderson, a noted professional photographer and freelance writer, died as the result of a tragic accident while diving on a shipwreck in the Firth of Clyde. Aged 53, he had learned how to dive in Scotland during the late 1980s and had notched up, in just over 30 years, an impressive 5,000 hours creating unique underwater images in locations throughout the world, from the Canary islands, Caribbean and the Mediterranean to Australasia and the South Pacific islands of Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

As a freelance travel writer, Gavin contributed articles on travel and nature to a wide range of publications, largely focusing on the underwater world.

A regular contributor to Sport Diver, which folded last year, Gavin had this year enthusiastically supported the launch of a new dive magazine, contributing two articles and a front cover photograph for the launch issue of Scuba Diver Asia-Pacific. A master of underwater photography, he captured the likes of great white sharks, leafy sea dragons and fur seals with an artistry that combined technical skill with a keen eye for his subject.

His easy style of writing, combining geography, history, wildlife and a wealth of photographic experience, endeared him to aspiring armchair travellers as well as to professional divers with interests ranging from conservation to underwater archaeology.

Gavin’s last published article, which explored the awesome wall diving to be had just off the shore of the Caribbean island of Grand Turk, demonstrated his skill at slowing down the pace in order to explore and observe more intimately the wonders of the underwater world for which he had such passion. Accompanied by a Nassau Grouper fish for his entire dive, he described the experience as “like being on a walk with the dog”.

The eldest son of David 
Verden-Anderson and his first wife Valery, Gavin, his younger brother Jamie and sister Sally were born into a family that for more than 150 years has been involved in the manufacture of paper and paper bags in Fife.

Brought up at Fairways near the Smith Anderson Fettykil Mill in Leslie, Gavin was educated at Cargilfield near Edinburgh and Strathallan in Perthshire. More inclined to sport than academic pursuits, he showed a special aptitude for skiing and was a member of the school team that won the British Schools Skiing Championship.

On leaving Strathallan in 1983, Gavin set out to explore the world, spending time in Zimbabwe working on the tobacco farm of his uncle Simon Faed, who was descended from a family of distinguished Scottish artists.

This episode, which afforded the chance to explore national parks in Africa, stimulated his desire to become a wildlife photographer and on returning to Scotland he developed a particular interest in marine biology while setting up fish tanks for an adventure farm being established at Silverburn, a Russell family estate on the Fife coast near Leven.

At the end of this gap year, an attempt to study biology at Portsmouth University faltered, the call of the sea drawing him to the Sherkin Island Marine Station on the coast of County Cork. Here he engaged in fauna and flora monitoring programmes and took part in activities helping introduce young people to the marine environment of Ireland.

In 1987 Gavin was persuaded to join the family firm, Smith Anderson, as a management trainee responsible for purchasing raw materials to make paper and setting up a waste collection system. This not only provided him with a regular income and good management experience, it gave him a chance to develop his diving and photographic skills during vacation time.

It was during one of these vacations in 1988 that he made the first of many expeditions to explore the waters of the Red Sea. These visits would ultimately lead him to help develop an image library for the Lonely Planet guides, one of which, Diving and Snorkelling Red Sea, he co-authored.

After ten years with the family firm, Gavin decided to break loose in 1997 to follow his passion for underwater photography. As a freelance photojournalist he undertook many commissions to write and take photographs for travel and dive magazines as well as newspapers such as The Scotsman, Independent on Sunday, Daily Mail and Sunday Post.

Additional contract work came his way in providing content for Tourist Board travel brochures promoting exotic maritime locations including The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago.

Keen to develop his photographic skills and expand his business, in 1999 Gavin decided to set up a top-of-the-range photographic studio at his home in the Kinross-shire village of Milnathort in central Scotland. Operating as Gavin Anderson Photography, he widened his enterprise to include portrait and commercial product work with a view to establishing a sustainable customer base beyond his underwater photo journalism interests. This activity was enhanced with the achievement of professional qualifications as a Licentiate of both the Master Photographers Association and the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers.

In all of this he was successful in building up a busy, recession-proof business over the past two decades.

In addition to photographic work for top companies such as PWC, Wood Mackenzie, Barrs, Stagecoach, Landcatch and Finix productions, Gavin was the official photographer for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

His skill in taking photographs at royal events was in working the room to capture the best of images without being intrusive, a facility he had developed as a nature photographer. It was skills like this that earned him some of the top photographic awards, including the best UK Underwater Newcomer Trophy in 1993 and the MPA Master of Excellence Award in March 2012.

Having established a solid client base as a professional photographer, in recent times Gavin had been turning his attention back to underwater photojournalism, with expeditions planned later this year to Sri Lanka, the Galapagos Islands and Jordan, where he had previously been working with the Aqaba Tourist Association.

While Gavin was a highly motivated person, enjoying travel and living life to the full, he was also a caring family man with many friends. He was a committed Christian, always adopting a warm, relaxed and friendly approach when working with adults, children and animals. He is survived by his wife Jenny and his son Josh by his first wife Eileen.

Gavin’s funeral will take place in Orwell Church, Milnathort. at 11am tomorrow, followed by a private interment.

David Munro