contact sheet

HR Director Contact Sheet

Inderjit Seehra, Cambridge University Human Resources Director, December 2008. ©Neil Turner

My favourite kind of blog posts are those which have forced me to write them following a conversation with someone that has really made me think. There’s often something else going on in my head or in my life that brings those thoughts into a sharper focus and this one is no exception.

It concerns a set of portraits that I shot of a gentleman called Inderjit Seehra that I shot way back in December 2008 for a business magazine. I like to post contact sheets on here and go into the back story of the pictures and frames from this set have been in and out of my portfolio since I shot them. I hadn’t selected this job as one to blog about until earlier this week when I got an email from a young man studying for a degree in photography who had been directed to my website by one of his lecturers. At his request I’m not going to name him but I do have his permission mention him here. The ethnicity of the student photographer is important to the story – he is British Asian and all four of his grandparents moved to the UK in the 1950s and 1960s. All four of them were born in India. What makes this more relevant is that a sub-committee of The British Press Photographers’ Association‘s Board are looking at what our industry can do anything to improve the career chances of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) photographers. (more…)

Johnny Ball – the contact sheet

When I posted a frame from this set on my Instagram feed it attracted a few comments and an email from a colleague asking to see the contact sheet for it. I’m only too happy to oblige so here it is – a sixteen image edit from the job. The words that I posted with it on Instagram were these:

I cannot remember photographing anyone who was more accommodating, nicer to be around and generally more cheerful than television presenter and educator Johnny Ball. In January 2008 when I photographed him in his back garden in Farnham Common, Berkshire it was cold and a little bit damp but we both wanted to work outside and so, after a brief tour of the garden, we chose two spots to shoot pictures. This location was crying out for a big shadow so I used a single battery power flash to light him and create the shadow. He was laughing and chatting right through the twenty or so minutes we were shooting pictures before retreating indoors for coffee and warmth. (more…)

New work (at last)

Portrait of TJ Okor

TJ Okor is a final year Physiotheraphy student at the University of Winchester. ©Neil Turner. September 2020

I’m pretty sure that everyone is fed up of hearing that work has dried up, incomes have suffered and how frustrating it is being a creative at the moment. I’d like to say that the work has started to flood in again but that wouldn’t be true. Happily a couple of clients have picked up the phone and booked some work and so I thought that I’d show one of the most recent bits of imperfect portraiture and talk a little bit about it.

The young man featured in this set of portraits is a Physiotherapy student in the final year of his degree and I was asked to go and shoot a (socially distanced and safe) portrait of him to go with a piece about Black History Month to accompany an article about people in the professions and how they have experienced racism and discrimination over the years. There has been an awful lot said and written about whether this kind of work should be shot by BAME photographers and I have an open mind about the subject but I felt that I’d do a good job and so I went along to meet him and we walked to a park very near where he lives in Hampshire and where he had been exercising whilst his gym was closed. (more…)

Marsha Hunt – the contact sheet

Photo: Neil Turner/TSL Education. October 2005.
Marsha Hunt photographed at the home of her friend in St John’s Wood, London

As I get towards 100 imperfect portraits added to my Instagram feed I have had lots of nice messages about the pictures and the stories behind them. Along with those I have had a few requests for more of the ‘contact sheets’ such as the Dennis Healey one that I added to this blog last month. My portrait of Marsha Hunt has had three requests so I thought that I’d so that one first.

When I posted this on Instagram I added the following words;

It is hard to think of actress, model and writer Marsha Hunt without thinking about Patrick Lichfield’s photograph of her taken when she was starring in the musical “Hair”. In October 2005 when I arrived at the flat where she was staying in London I was a little surprised by her baldness but she has the most amazing presence that I forgot about it is seconds. The shoot was fun and she was just about the most professional subject I have ever been asked to shoot. It was tough to choose which frame to post but this one really shows how she was on the day.  #lovemyjob #portraitphotography #archive #locationportraiture #editorial #canonukandireland #digitalevolution #imperfectportraiture  #timeseducationalsupplement

This is quite a wide edit but you can see that we didn’t change locations during the shoot at all. There were two reasons for this; the first is that Marsha had been having treatment for cancer and not been that well so we decided that once we had our location, we would work it. The second is that it wasn’t her home so nothing in the background added much to the story anyway.

The eagle-eyed lighting geeks amongst you will notice that the position and angle of the light changes a fair bit and that’s something of a feature of the ay that I shoot this kind of work – always fiddling with the (normally single) light source and combining it with the ambient in different ways as I go.

Technical notes: All of the lighting was with a single Lumedyne battery powered head and pack with a shoot-through umbrella on some and a 60cm x 80cm Chimera soft box on others. The cameras were Canon EOS1D MkII bodies with 16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L lenses

Dennis Healey – the contact sheet

Lord Dennis Healey taking a photograph of the photographer. ©Neil Turner/TSL

When I have been posting archive portraits on Instagram and Facebook I have been including a few memories of each job. On more than one occasion I have commented that it was a tough job picking a single frame from a shoot and one of my colleagues contacted me when I posted  a frame of the late Dennis Healey to ask me to post a wider selection from that job. I thought that it would be best to show the whole edit as it was sent to the magazine in the form of a ‘contact sheet’. (more…)

More about archiving

Interview portrait of Lady Helen Brook, founder of the Brook Advisory Centres which gave advice to young women about contraception starting in the in the 1960s, aged 85 at her home in north-west London. 05 May 1993 Photo: Neil Turner

Here we are in day sixty-something of the UK Coronavirus lockdown and I’m still ploughing through my very old work and trying to knock it into a usable archive. There are a number of stages to the process and stage one has been to make a detailed catalogue of somewhere approaching three thousand rolls of negatives from dates on the negative sleeves married up with my old (Filofax) diaries and a few memories kicking around in my head. Stage one is now pretty much finished. There are a few gaps where I cannot work out the exact details of when and where pictures were taken and there are a lot of sheets of negatives missing where the films were processed in newspaper darkrooms and I never got them back.

What I have done as a first step is to create a spreadsheet with columns for the film number, date shot, client who commissioned the job or if it was a self-funded project, a generic caption for the whole sheet of negatives, specific frames where applicable and the digital filename range of files created. From there I can import any or all of that data into the IPTC metadata once I get to the captioning of those images. There will be some rolls of film that will never be touched and there are others which will be given a lot of attention. (more…)

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. (more…)

Customising your Photo Mechanic IPTC interface

This could very well be the single most “niche” blog post that I have ever written but I found it incredibly useful and so I thought others might too. If you aren’t a Photo Mechanic user already, bear with me because it might just convince you to have (another) look at what, for me, is an indispensable piece of software.

When you open up either a Stationery Pad (best for bulk captioning) or click on the IPTC Info tab (best for editing a single caption) the default views show dozens of fields. Most of those fields will have little or no use for basic image captioning and some of them will have very specific uses for very specific clients. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of image editing and I have found that different clients have very different needs and because of that I want the IPTC interface to look different for each client. The great news is that in Photo Mechanic you can customise the interfaces to a very high degree. You can choose to:

  • Hide or remove fields
  • Change the order in which they appear
  • Group them in any way you wish
  • Change the labels on the fields
  • Change the size of the boxes of some fields

Once you have set up your custom ‘look’ you can then save that look and swap between any number of looks depending on the work that you are doing. You can, at any time, swap back to the Photo Mechanic default and create new versions of the interface. (more…)