0n the 1969 August Bank Holiday,
a Saab swerved across a notorious blackspot on the A131 near Halstead on
the Essex-Sussex border and crashed into a lorry. Its three occupants and a dog, which had been sitting on the back seat, were killed instantly. The tragedy received extensive press coverage, not least for the terrible loss of three young lives (the oldest was just 25), but also because one of the passengers was Lady Catherine Pakenham, youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Longford. It cast an appalling shadow over what otherwise would have been a glittering time for the family. Six of its members had books published that year, including the much acclaimed biography
Mary Queen of Scots by Lady Antonia Fraser, Catherine's older sister.

Also in the car were Gina Richardson, a colleague of Catherine's from The Daily Telegraph, where they were both researchers, and the driver, their friend, photographer Stefan Tyszko. The dog belonged to him and was called Turnip.

Despite Tyszko's young age (he was 24),
he was already marked out by Fleet Street as a skilled and fearless photojournalist.
The Photography Yearbook (1970) ran a piece on him: "He has great talent as a photographer and the ingenuity, persistence, courage and determination that surely qualify him for admission into the
select ranks of the world's top photojournalists."
in a hastily put together addendum,
it was noted that, as the collection went to press,
"news came that Tyszko, who in his short life had seen and photographed so much sudden death,was himself dead. Words fail us."

stefan tyszko



Despite the acclaim, his work is now little known outside the picture libraries of the newspapers and magazines who sent hirn on assignment.
However, his own prints have been stored, perfectly preserved, in the attic of his family's home in Essex. On these pages, published as a portfolio for the first time since his death, are just a few of them - in particular his evocation of the momentous events of August 1968 in Prague, which the Yearbook admired so much.
Tyszko, having bluffed his way into the city as a Polish student, was the first photographer in Prague to witness the tanks of the Warsaw Pact advancing to restore the iron grip of Communism.
It was the making of him, and remains his most acutely observed work, as well as the most vivid picture of the city after the brief and liberating "Prague Spring" under Alexander Dubcek.
And there was plenty of competition - not least from the celebrated Josef Koudelka, later of the Magnum agency.

What emerges also is a young man of exceptional charism,
who, true to the more relaxed mores of his times, behaved sometimes flamboyantly perhaps even a little recklessly: "Before he had left home, he had smashed up at least two motorbikes," remembers his brother Simon, 14 years his junior. `The railings he smashed into held his shape for weeks afterwards." A romantic picture of an incipient adventurer develops further.
Sent to a strict Polish-Jesuit boarding school (his fatherwas Polish, his mother English),
he rebelled by stealing a boat and rowing off downriver.
Barely a decade later, he was in Israel covering the Arab-Israeli Six, Day War, and then Prague




Tanks on the move In January 1968, Alexander Dubcek was elected First Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and radical reforms gathered momentum: Stalinism was discreetly isolated and the term "Prague Spring" was coined.
The speed of Dubcek's reforms caught the Soviet Union by surprise, but by the end of August the order was given for an invasion. Five member states of the Warsaw Pact moved 2,000 tanks towards Prague. Queen magazine, with great prescience, despatched Stefan Tyszko there.
the following images are a small selection of the works he made there, and are extracted from a cover article in The Independent Magazine (UK) from Feburary 2000.

prague images