Greg Bos, VHS 1975 Cowboy At Heart
by Gerald Pash, VHS 1962
He has roamed the world as a Reuters news photographer capturing some of the world’s most historic events. As Reuters senior photo editor he has been central to the selection and distribution of journalistic images for the world. Yet, it is Greg’s full-colour coffee table book Trails of the West, Images of the North American Cowboy, that reveals his lifelong passion with the simple, rugged life of the cowboy.
Greg was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1957 to Dutch parents, the eldest of four children. His dad became fed up with the cold winters in Winnipeg, so the family moved to the west coast in 1964. He attended Central Junior High School from 1970-73, then went on to Victoria High School. Greg says high school was a challenge. He struggled with homework, partially due to working late nights as bus boy at the Keg & Cleaver on Fort Street, and partially due to problems at home. His parents divorced a few years later.
“The net result was lower grades than I would have liked,” says Greg. “However, I did enjoy homeroom and hanging out in the cafeteria. I became a minor celebrity as a cast member of two major stage drama productions, including the award-winning Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations in 1974, and the Greek comedy Lysistrata the following year. I was a keen supporter of Vic High sports teams, especially the Tyees and the Totems, and followed the senior girls basketball team all the way to their BC title winning game in 1975.”
Given his Reuters career, “it is bizarre,” says Greg, “to think that I was never a member of the photography club at Vic High.” He finished off his senior year as a member of the graduation committee. “I do remember going with Vice-Principal Reg Reid and his daughter Linda,” says Greg, “to select a rhododendron for the small planting area at the base of the main entrance front steps. We had a planting ceremony and unveiled a brass plaque.” On grad night, Greg was one of three people to stand up and introduce a student performance for gathered students, staff and family. Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce was the selection he announced. “That was actually more nerve-wracking than performing on stage.” says Greg.
After graduation he became an apprentice glazier at Pacific Glass on Pandora Avenue. In early 1977, however, Greg said goodbye to Victoria and ventured off to Europe. In London, he landed a job as a cinema usher in Leicester Square and eventually mapped out a journey across Europe with long stops in the Netherlands, his parents’ homeland. The photography seed was planted while in Europe when an acquaintance in Amsterdam encouraged him to use black and white film rather than the Kodachrome that his father had advised for his photo-taking.
Greg returned to Canada in 1978 and decided Edmonton was the place to be. To augment his high school diploma, he applied for a two-year diploma-granting course at Grant MacEwan Community College (GMCC), now MacEwan University. Because the Audio-Visual course was oversubscribed, he opted for the Advertising & Public Relations program. He joined the student council, and was the editor of the 1980 Scimitar yearbook, his first book, he claims, and graduated with the third highest marks of the 21 students. Through the course, his interest in photography was reignited and he decided to become a news photographer. With a part-time job in a camera store, he ended up spending nearly every cent he earned on film for his Pentax camera. At one point he started talking his way into NASL Edmonton Drillers’ soccer games pretending to be a freelance sports photographer. There he met Canadian Press staff photographer Dave Buston, who shared a variety of tips and processes of the press photography trade.
To make ends meet, he managed to land a full-time job selling yearbooks for Inter-Collegiate Press, and in 1982 was transferred to Vancouver where he linked up with Nick Didlick of United Press Canada. “Nick really helped me finesse my darkroom skills,” says Greg. He worked as a freelancer with Didlick and built up a portfolio of press images covering transit strikes and floods and NHL hockey in Vancouver. Subsequently, he was offered a job as a staff photographer for the Kamloops News in 1984.
Four years later, at 30 years of age and with a Dutch passport, he joined Nick Didlick at the Reuters News Pictures Service in Brussels. His first major story was the Zeebrugge ferry disaster in Belgium. After a year in Brussels, he was transferred to London. “Seeing my pictures published with a byline in big British daily newspapers was a real ego boost. I absolutely loved it,” says Greg. In 1988 he was sent up to Scotland to cover the Lockerbie Disaster where a Pan American 747 jet crashed following an explosion. It was one of the biggest news stories of the latter half of the 20th century. Three months later he was promoted to run the news pictures operation in Reuters’ Amsterdam bureau.
Greg now lives in Plymouth in the southwest of England with his wife Fiona and daughter Zoe. During 24 years at Reuters, he covered some of the major news stories of the late 20th century, including the Pan-Am Lockerbie Disaster, Fall of the Berlin Wall, the first Gulf War, and Princess Diana’s Funeral. In the latter part of his Reuters career, as the Global Sports Photo Editor, he planned and implemented photographic coverage of major sporting events such as the Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, the UEFA European Football Championships in Austria/Switzerland 2008, and the FIFA Men’s World Cups in Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.
After 40 years, Greg declares that photography is more of a hobby these days. His last assignment was a photo exhibition in 2018 at the Barbican Library in London, which neatly coincided with the release of his ‘second’ book, Trails of the West: Images of the North American Cowboy. It was while working in Kamloops that the idea of a book of cowboy photographs became hard-wired into Greg’s psyche. “I was always the first photographer to put my hand up if there was a rodeo photo assignment in the area,” says Greg. “And in 1984 I discovered the Douglas Lake Ranch while on assignment for the paper.” Since that time, Greg has visited many ranches in the US and Canada, shooting the photos he wanted, and meeting interesting characters. “It was a lot of fun,” says Greg, “I could take my time, on my own time, and shoot pictures that weren’t always newsworthy but that I really liked.”
Greg’s book definitely has a Vic High hallmark. When it came time to put it all together, Greg’s good friend, fellow VHS 1975 alumnus Doug Callbeck, pointed Greg towards book designer Linda Gustafson in Toronto. Linda is also a fellow VHS 197575 grad, and is Principal of Counterpunch Inc. in Toronto, a book design and packaging company.
Signed copies of Greg’s book are available to purchase from the VHS Alumni Association. Email Communications.