Theresa May MP – July 2000 portrait

The fifteen frame edit supplied to the newspaper from a seven minute portrait shoot with Theresa May who was the Conservative front-bench spokesperson on education in July 2000. © Neil Turner/TSL

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.

Twelve frames from an official visit by Theresa May MP to a school in London W14 in July 2000. © Neil Turner/TSL

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.

10 comments

    1. I think that was her natural hair colour complete with the streak. In the 18 years since we did those pictures the Conservative Party appears to have edited out any originality that she had and changed her speaking voice too. Sad.

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      1. No, we didn’t realise that in 2000 that audio would be worth doing. The reporters took shorthand notes that were stored away for posterity though. It wasn’t even clear that there would ever be a Conservative government again in her lifetime – this was the time of the pre-Iraq Blair/Labour government that looked set for a very long reign.

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  1. I still use my Lumedyne kit, not as much as I used to since getting my Godox AD200’s but they get dusted off at least once a week. Its a toss up between the Lumedynes and my old Metz 45CL4’s what I think is my favourite lighting kits of all time….this new TTL stuff is OK but you can’t beat the reliability and consistency of a good old manual flashgun…

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      1. I nearly went with the Elinchroms a couple of years ago, I tried them out and was very impressed but at the time I decided not to go with them. In the end I decided to go with a couple of Godox AD200’s as they packed down so much smaller, have a huge battery life(considering the small size) and were so much better value. I like the fact I can swap out the fresnel head for a bare bulb if I need to as well, so I am getting a light source very similar to a Lumedyne if I want to. Mounted into an S Bracket I can use all my old Bowens modifiers as well so it made sense( S brackets for Elinchrom are also available). I’ve had the Godox kit a year and I don’t regret it, they have proven invaluable, incredibly accurate and extremely reliable. I just pull out the Lumedyne to supplement the AD200’s if I have a large space to light, but if I didn’t already have Lumedyne I would happily get the new AD400 or AD600 as well.

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      2. I think that we all have subtly different needs and we all have to weigh cost versus usefulness. It sounds as if you have reached a perfect balance for you and that’s how it should be. I as lucky to be able to swap out my Lumedynes for the new Elinchroms when they first came out and I already had a lot of Elinchrom accessories from having used their mains powered kit many years ago. Those Godox units look really handy but I have several of the Canon 600 ex RTII flashes that I use when travelling super light so getting Godox would be a bad move for me.

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