When I published my piece last month about the arrival of the Kodak DCS520 cameras I included an interesting portrait of Theresa May MP taken just over eighteen years ago. Several people – including some picture editors – got in touch and asked to see the whole shoot. It was the second time that month that I had photographed Mrs May which, given that I was working for a group of education titles, wasn’t that unusual back then. As always the interview overran and the time for pictures was severely curtailed. The inside of a Member of Parliament’s private office is rarely interesting and so I went tight with what little time I had.
Back then I was using Lumedyne battery powered lighting on almost every job. I could set the kit up in under a minute and pack away just as quickly. These portraits were shot with the Lumedyne and a simple shoot through white umbrella except that I was going through a phase of using the translucent umbrella as a reflective one which allowed a lot of the light to pass through and bounce around the room giving an interesting and reasonably soft effect from a single flash head.
I couldn’t tell you whether or not I was using Pocket Wizards to trigger the flash at that time. I probably had the choice of those or the Wein optical slave and infra-red triggers that I had been using for about eight years by then. I liked the Weins but they could be temperamental and be triggered by a faulty fluorescent tube or even a passing emergency services vehicle with the wrong type of flashing lights!
One of the biggest problems that we had was getting consistent colour. I had a state-of-the-art Apple Powerbook laptop but the screens weren’t as good as they are today and you really couldn’t see the colours all that accurately. That’s a shame because the Kodak software had become a really good RAW converter that allowed you to do a lot of colour, contrast and density correction before converting the proprietary TIFF files into JPEGs. That was twenty tears ago (or eighteen in this case) and things have changed a fair bit.
I thought that it would be good to show the other Theresa May shoot from that month. It was her first official visit to a state school as the Shadow Education Minister. The school was in west London and she spent about two hours there. The photographers were only allowed to shoot a small part of the visit and, whether or not I was allowed, I didn’t include any photos of identifiable pupils in my twelve picture edit. We weren’t interested in the children or the staff as this was our first opportunity to get stock pictures of the new Shadow Minister. These were all shot with either ambient light of a mixture of ambient and on-camera flash. You couldn’t really go over 400 ISO wthout taking big risks with image quality but, according to the EXIF data, I went all the way up to 800 ISO on some of these frames.
Footnote: If you look at the last frame in this edit you’ll see that Mrs May is looking at her pager. There was an obsession at the time with MPs and their pagers which was the principal method of keeping them up to date with what was happening in Parliament and any photos of someone using one were excellent for the library.