The unearthed pictures were shot by US-based British photographer Steve Rapport. Around three years ago, he was approached by a punk running-wear company in Paris, who requested to use one of his black-and-white Strummer images for a new T-shirt design.
“I put them in touch with my mate in Oxfordshire, and he dug around in the garage and actually managed to find them,” Rapport told NME. “A little while after I thought, I should probably get these pictures. So it was really that Joe Strummer picture – a black-and-white one, which was on Blackheath before the race – that got it all started.”
Earlier this year, Rapport’s previous agency shipped four boxes’ worth of old transparencies to his home in Pacifica, California. Having found the time to sift through the collection during lockdown, he made a surprising discovery.
“I saw Joe running the marathon – in colour!” Rapport told NME. “My head exploded because I had no recollection whatsoever of shooting colour of the marathon. I was eventually sent my negatives of Joe Strummer, and I scanned those.”
Recalling the day of the race, Rapport said: “I drove across London and I parked on Blackheath Common. I got out of the car and there was Joe Strummer warming up – not even way over in the grass, but near the road surrounded by thousands of people.
“Everyone’s got rain jackets on, and then there’s Joe in a pool of light just on his own in a ‘White Riot’ Clash T-shirt.”
He continued: “I walk up and I go, ‘Joe, how’re doing? Can I get a picture?’, so he poses for me. I take the pictures of Joe and he trots off, and it turns out I had pictures of him trotting off. There’s one of him in the crowd going off to the start of the race, and he’s just looking around and smiling.”
Rapport then drove over to Tower Bridge, hoping to catch Strummer in action: “I actually gave up, so I packed my cameras away and I just start to go off back to my car. Then there’s this skinny Bambi-legged bloke running – and it’s Joe.”
“I got what I thought was just black-and-white, which Rolling Stone used – and actually, NME used.”
The first colour image of Joe waving went viral after Rapport posted it on Twitter, clocking up 950,000 impressions and 10,000 likes in total at the time of writing.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he told NME of the response, adding that he now has “so many Clash fans” following him on Instagram. “I went to the lab yesterday to sign nearly a hundred photos that I’ve sold. I’ve now sold 51 prints; I did a special offer of that print because everyone’s short of money because of lockdown.”
The snaps have also caught the attention of Strummer’s widow, Lucinda Tait. “I heard that she likes the pictures, so that’s one of the things that inspires me to keep going. I’m trying to get her the black-and-white one.”
Rapport first crossed paths with Strummer back in 1982, when he was sent to work on a cover feature shoot for Bow Wow Wow in Los Angeles. “They were staying at the Sunset Marquis, and The Clash were staying there. So we got to hang out,” he told NME
“I met Joe and went drinking with him; we had a drinking game which was something to do with the first album you ever bought. Mine and Joe Strummer’s was ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’ by Rod Stewart, so we bonded over that.”
Rapport said that he has around 20 colour frames of Strummer in total, which he is currently in the process of scanning.
He told NME that he’s also unearthed forgotten images of Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics with Joey Ramone at a nightclub, as well as shots of Marc Almond hanging out with Nick Cave. You can find more photographs on Rapport’s Instagram page.