Paul Harris was the quiet man in the pub in Coldingham swapping stories and pontificating on the events of the day over the past decade- but few knew the extent of his achievements.
Following Paul’s death in May this year, after a short illness, an exhibition of 300 of his war photographs, many from Bosnia in the 1990s will be on show at Paul and his wife Sulee’s home at 6 High Street, Coldingham, for a week. On Friday, November 2, Saturday, November 3, then from Tuesday November 6 to Friday, November 9, from 2-4pm, with late opening on each Friday from 6-8pm.
This is the first public showing of Paul’s war photographs, of which there are several thousand.
The photos chronicle Paul’s time in former Yugoslavia when local ethnic tensions broke out, developing into one of the most brutal civil wars.
Paul Harris was one of many experienced reporters telling the world the true stories of the horrors that were being allowed to happen in former Yugoslavia, travelling to some of the most dangerous war zones in his battered old Skoda car with his soon-to-become best friend and driver, Igor Popocnik.
What is most searing about the photographs he took to illustrate his stories, is not just the frightening images of bombed houses and the mass graves, but the scenes of life going on as normal, within shouting distance of crimes against humanity.
Paul was also the author of 44 books. The first chronicled his days as project manager for Capital Radio, one of the first offshore ship-based, illegal radio stations. ‘When Pirates Ruled the Waves’ was turned down by all publishers but he and his friend Malcolm Forbes published it themselves and it made them enough to buy top-of-the-range exotic cars.
Photography was an essential part of Paul’s life and after a stint in publishing he wandered the world as a freelance reporter for BBC, the Telegraph, the Sunday Mail, the Scotsman and many others. He covered conflicts from Sarajevo under siege, the anarchy of Albania and the bloodletting in Algeria, to wars in the jungles of Sri Lanka, the bush of southern Sudan and benighted Somalia.
He had an instinct for survival: a plane he was about to board was destroyed on the runway in Ljubljana as war broke out in 1991; he witnessed the explosion which destroyed the centre of the Sri Lankan capital in 1996; and he almost died in Kosovo after accidental close contact with the rotting bodies when a mass grave of murdered Muslims was opened. He worked in China for the Shanghai Daily, was the Daily Telegraph’s man in Columbo, and had connections with Jane’s Intelligence Review and the world of intelligence gathering.
While in Sri Lanka, Paul met and fell in love with Sulee, who became his wife, and Sulee is hosting the free exhibition in her Coldingham home.