Celebrity divers
Peter Hince
underwater photographer
Born 23 January, 1955 Lives West London Life and Career Brought up in a working-class household in Hereford, Hince was a promising young athlete but not academically inclined and left school aged 15 with no qualifications. His father was an electrician and encouraged him to work for a local engineering factory, but Hince was more interested in music and moved to London while still in his teens.
Hanging out with musicians, he fell into roadie work and managed to land a plum job with David Bowie’s crew. A popular figure in the music business of the Seventies, he also worked with Roxy Music, Brian Eno and Lou Reed. A stint with Mott the Hoople gave him his first contact with glam rockers Queen, who employed him as a guitar roadie during the making of their seminal album A Night at the Opera.

He soon became an integral member of the Queen ‘family’ and eventually headed the road crew, supervising some of the band’s most extensive – and profitable – tours. He worked with the band until their last tour in 1986, when he decided to change direction and strike out as a commercial photographer. His grainy black-and-white underwater images are taken mostly for personal satisfaction and are much in demand, with limited-edition prints selling for £200.
He has a wealth of stories about life on the road with some of the biggest bands of the Seventies and Eighties, which he plans to make public in a definitive book about the roadie lifestyle. Today, he is disillusioned about what he sees as the corporate takeover of the music industry, but he is content with his second career, in which he travels the world on photographic shoots for advertising agencies. ‘When I stop getting a buzz out of it, I’ll know it’s time to move on,’ he says.

Passions: Football (Liverpool FC), cooking, coral reefs and music.

What prompted you to take up diving?
My first dive was in 1980. Queen had been on the road for ages and we got to stop off in Hawaii. Someone said, ‘Let’s go diving,’ and we did. I didn’t have formal lessons as such, and I was all over the place when I got in the water. I did only one dive in Hawaii – my second was in Bermuda, where I was taken down to the wreck of a Greek tanker. I still hadn’t had any lessons, but it was fabulous.

Where did you train?
Ten years after taking up diving, I decided it was about time I did a course, to get a bit of diving respectability. I officially learned to dive in the Maldives at Christmas in 1990.

What are your qualifications?
I’ve got my PADI advanced open-water and TDI nitrox certifications. I don’t really believe in getting loads of qualifications because there’s no substitute for experience. The nitrox qualification was important because they don’t let you use the stuff unless you’ve got the card. I love nitrox: I feel as though I’ve been through the mill after a week of diving on air, but with nitrox it’s a breeze. How many dives have you done? About 250. I still log them, but I don’t go into much detail, just date, site, time, maximum depth and all that. For comments, I usually write something like ‘shark’ or ‘ray’.
What is your best diving experience?
Well, you never forget your first dive. For me, it was kind of spacey, a bit dreamy and surreal. I was all over the shop with my buoyancy, so it was wild, but peaceful at the same time. My first dives at Cocos Island, off Costa Rica, and Sipadan, in Malaysia, were real eye-openers, too, what with the amount of life, but there’s nothing to compare with the first time you breathe underwater.

What is your worst diving experience?
I’ve had a few iffy moments, but nothing that really put me in fear of my life. I did get caught in some particularly nasty currents around Cocos Island, but that’s the sort of diving you have to be prepared for out there. It can be like a bloody washing machine at times. We experienced down-currents, side-currents, a big swell, the works. I did have moments of minor panic, but I was never seriously out of control. I’ve never had to cope with any equipment failures, touch wood.

Where have you dived?
Hawaii, Bermuda, Florida, the Bahamas, Kenya… I sound like a right flash bastard, don’t I? I’d probably dive around the UK if I lived in some nice coastal village in Cornwall, but it just isn’t something I can fit in at the moment.

Who is your regular buddy?
My girlfriend Gabriella. She’s a typical Italian, very laid-back and easy-going. She’s only been diving for three or four years, but she’s very good and we’re a great buddy team. We keep an eye out for each other, but it’s not like we’re joined at the hip underwater.

Why do you dive?
I enjoy it. There are so many reasons. I love the sensation of being underwater, the vibe of it. I last dived at Christmas, so now I feel like I need to get back into the water. I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as a dive junkie, but it’s a very important part of my life.

Where do you want to dive next?
I’m due to go to the southern Egyptian Red Sea on the Ghazala Voyager liveaboard soon, which should be excellent. Beyond that, I want to head off to Indonesia. I’m after mantas and whale sharks, the stuff everybody loves. I think there’ll be some excellent photographic opportunities out there. I tend to look for shapes and the sort of graphic form that can be brought out with black-and-white photography.

What equipment do you own?
My cameras are all Nikonos V. I usually travel with three of them, and 20mm, 28mm and 35mm lenses. I use fast black-and-white film: 1600 ASA. Most of my stuff is done on the 28mm lens these days. There’s less depth of field but it can work if you’ve got the right subject. As far as diving kit is concerned, I’m really happy with my SeaQuest BCD and my Mares regulator. My Typhoon wetsuit is getting a bit old. The zip broke when I was in the Maldives, but there was a tailor in the hotel who put in a series of Velcro straps to keep the thing on my back. My favourite bit of kit is my Aladin Nitrox computer, which I can also use with air. It’s brilliant.

Which five songs would you like to put on a liveaboard compilation tape?
What, only five? It’s impossible! I’d have to go for something by Hendrix, because he’s my hero. Also Private Number by Judy Clay and William Bell. The best live band I ever saw was Free – they could play like you wouldn’t believe, so I’ll have All Right Now. And I’d have to have a Queen track, probably Somebody to Love, but it all depends on my mood.

What is the most interesting underwater animal? Jethro Tull. Okay, seriously: I’m pretty obsessed with rays. It’s the movement and shape. I saw a lot of eagle and marbled rays at Cocos Island – but not too many hammerheads, thanks to El Niño. The animal I most want to photograph is the manta ray. I’ve never got as close as I’d like, which is why I’d really like to go to Sangaliki, off Borneo. My dream black-and-white photograph would probably be of a school of manta rays.

Have you a dive tip that has helped you?
When I’m putting on a wetsuit I like to use plastic bags on my hands and feet so that my arms and legs go straight through. I always travel with a couple of Safeway bags, although a Sainsbury’s one will suffice. I hate being hurried when I’m kitting up. There’s always someone who wants to get you into your kit 20 minutes before the dive, then you’re left baking in your wetsuit while they’re still mucking about with the boat. My motto with underwater photography and working with a rock band is: ‘Look after your kit and it will look after you.’ You should always have good interface karma with your equipment, if you know what I mean.

Which figure, living or dead, would you like to take diving, and why?
I’d quite like to take my dad, Ray. He retired recently, but he’s only 67 and he’s always been interested in the sea. He’d probably feel a bit claustrophobic, and I don’t know if I’d ever be able to get him into the water. I’ve persuaded quite a few people to try out diving, but I don’t like to be too preachy about it. n

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