Archive Portraits on Instagram

Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer, photographed in her London studio after she had been celebrating with her team having won yet another design award. October 1990. Photo ©Neil Turner

Over the last few months I have been devoting an awful lot of my time to building up an archive of my professional work from when I left college in 1986. There are plenty of gaps and there have been lots of surprises – images and commissions that I had long forgotten and it occurred to me that my Instagram feed was looking a bit sorry for itself and so I started to add portraits that had something of a back story. That was a couple of weeks ago and there will be photographs on that feed that regular readers of this blog will recognise but, equally, there will be some very unfamiliar portraits that haven’t seen the light of day in many, many years.

Graphologist Rosemary Sassoon photographed at her home in Sevenoaks, Kent. 19 March 1993. Photo: ©Neil Turner

I’ve had a lot of fun looking back through and I have already blogged a few times about the process so I wanted to make this about my on/off relationship with Instagram as a method of showing your work. For quite a while I kept it to new and personal work and that was interesting but the amount of time that I was dedicating to producing new pictures had dwindled and with it my social media sharing. Now that archiving is taking up almost all of my work time during the Coronavirus pandemic I thought that it would be fun to see what the world thought about some of this archive material. So far most of the posts have featured work with the hashtag #shotonfilm but a few digital originals that have slipped through the net have started to appear too.

A couple of people have asked me about shooting film and whether they should do it. I am ambivalent about it. I’m glad that I learned my craft shooting film but the act of then having to digitise it is slow and somewhat painful. I think back to that time in the mid to late 1990s when we had scanners and laptops but when digital cameras were still a bit dodgy and unbelievably expensive. Getting film processed and scanned was expensive and time-consuming and the quality of those scans hasn’t stood the test of time at all well. We have better equipment to digitise those negatives now but it doesn’t make me want to get my developing tanks out and start shooting film again. For me, that ship has sailed but for others it still holds a certain magic and it is still a wonderful chapter in learning about photography. The though of going back into a wet darkroom and making prints leaves me cold and so I will happily leave the silver halide side of things to those with the desire to use it.

Anyway, back to Instagram; I have no idea how long this archive portraits project will last. At the moment it has almost been one a day but that will probably start to slow as the number of images that have the right kind of back story dwindles but who knows what is next? Maybe some early street photography of mine or some “where are they now?” features? I haven’t made any decisions but my Instagram career looks likely to be based around #lovemyjob and #archive for a while to come and once it is all over I’m going to add an archive portraits gallery to my web portfolio.

Onora O’Neill, Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge. 26 January 1994. Photo: Neil Turner


T&GWU General Secretary Bill Morris in his office in London being interviewed for a trades union magazine. 20 May 1992. Photo: Neil Turner


Desmond Fennell QC, Chairman of the Kings Cross Inquiry photographed at his chambers at Crown Office Row, Temple, London. 27 January 1989. Photo: Neil Turner

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