contact sheet

Reina Lewis – The contact sheet, June 2006

One of my favourite sets of portraits that I ever made was of a lady by the name of Reina Lewis who had just been appointed to a new post at The London College of Fashion to become Professor of Cultural Studies. The pictures were shot at her home and I could see when I got there that she was definitely aware of how important some good pictures in the right newspaper could be. We shot a range of images from some tight head and shoulders against a plain wall to some full-length sitting ones in one of the elegant chairs that she had.

©Neil Turner/TSL. London, June 2006.

All of the pictures that you see here are entirely uncropped. They were shot on a pair of Canon EOS1D MkII cameras with 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L lenses and lit using a single Lumedyne Signature series flash kit with a 24×32 inch Chimera soft box. The Canon CR2 RAW files were converted using Adobe Camera RAW in Adobe Photoshop CS3.

College Principal – the “contact sheet”

Within two hours of posting a portrait of College Principal Jane Rapley at Central St Martins on this blog, I’d had four emails asking to see the rest of the shoot. I can’t do that but I can share the rest of the edit.

©Neil Turner/TSL. London, July 2006

I’m not going to repeat everything that I wrote on the original blog posting but you can see that the image I selected to feature was very much the “odd one out”. I have always thought that this set represented a good selection of portraits from a single session but looking back five and a half years on I have realised how many uprights there are and how few horizontal compositions. I’d like to think that was because I knew that the newspaper wanted uprights but I’m not sure that’s the case. Anyway, to those of you who wanted to see this selection… I hope that you like them!

Carlos Fuentes portrait – the “contact sheet”

Going back through an old portfolio I was reminded of a lot of portraits that I used to love. One of them is this session with Mexican author Carlos Fuentes shot at his London home in December 1999. He was both charming and cooperative and his home was easily spacious enough to set up as much gear as I had been able to carry up the stairs.

©Neil Turner/TSL. December 1999. London

He had already been interviewed by a reporter to whom he was obviously a hero and I had spent a while asking her about him and his work. These were the days when the internet was just starting to become useful for background research. The trouble was that this was a last minute assignment and getting on line when you were on the road was a very tricky task. These days we all have smart phones with Google and Wikipedia but back then it was a lot tougher to become an instant expert of your subject. I looked his CV up later and was a bit embarrassed that I had never heard of him. I read a coupe of translations of his books over that Christmas break and I hope that I will never get caught out like that again.

Techie stuff: Kodak/Canon DCS520 cameras with 17-35 f2.8L, 28-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L lenses. All lit with a Lumedyne Classic series flash and a 70cm shoot through umbrella with the hair light in some frames provided by a Canon 550ex flash unit.

Choice adviser – the “contact sheet”

This is another contact sheet that doesn’t quite fit in with my previous postings. The lady in the portraits is a “Choice Adviser” whose job it is to work with children and their parents to help them choose which secondary schools are best for them and to help them make their applications to their chosen schools. Part of her job is to hold workshops and the pictures were taken outside the most beautiful of the buildings where she does those workshops.

©Neil Turner/TSL. December 2006, Kent.

The portraits were done quite late in the afternoon on a cold and miserable December day back in 2006. I chose to shoot with quite a lot of light and there were two Lumedyne packs and heads used on most of these images balancing the flash with the ambient light. My brief was just to shoot nice portraits and I had no idea what kind of shape or even where in the newspaper they would go and so I had to give the Picture Editor as much choice as I could.

I wouldn’t normally choose to shoot someone in a black coat against a black door but on this occasion I really like the effect. For my money, making good portraits with people who are shy and who are unused to being photographed on cold, damp December days is a lot tougher than working with celebrities.

Techie stuff: Canon EOS1D MkII cameras with 16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 85 f1.2L lenses. Mixture of available light with two Lumedyne Signature series flashes, a small soft box and a 70cm shoot through umbrella.

Merger talks – the “contact sheet”

Until now all of the ‘contact sheets’ that I have blogged have been from portrait assignments. Whilst looking back through some old pictures that haven’t seen the light of day in many years I came across this set of images. I was commissioned to do a sort of ‘fly-on-the-wall’ coverage of a Board meeting of the combined Westminster and Kingsway College governors.

©Neil Turner/TSL. July 2000, London.

The idea was that two medium sized central London colleges were to merge and become a single large institution on multiple sites and a series of meetings like this one were taking place to make important decisions about almost every aspect of the way that the new Westminster Kingsway College would function. This particular meeting was about the logo. My task was to get a whole series of black and white images (even if they were shot on a digital camera in colour) that could be used through a multiple page article about the merger once it was complete.

Moving around the room as quietly as possible, using no flash and getting a set of pictures that represented the meeting was my goal and it was actually a fairly tense meeting, which made my job all the more difficult. In the end I left the meeting before I was asked to. It was only a matter of time before I got the “tap on the shoulder” anyway and I thought that I wasn’t going to get anything very different and a voluntary departure would be a good move.

The magazine actually ran nine pictures across three pages in the end and I was very keen to repeat the exercise. Sadly, it didn’t really happen in the same way again for many years.

Techie stuff: Kodak/Canon DCS520 cameras with Canon 17-35 f2.8, 28-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8L lenses at 640 ISO and colour converted to black and white using the Kodak DCS Acquire software.

Ahmet Zappa – the “contact sheet”

Ahmet Zappa is the son of legendary rocker Frank Zappa and is an author who has written books for children. A resident of Los Angeles, he was photographed at the offices of his publishers, Penguin Books on The Strand in London. I was there at the same time as one other photographer and we played this weird “your go, my go” dance shooting portraits in turn in different parts of the beautiful building. He was more than happy to clown around – his PR team were less sure until we showed them what the pictures looked like on the LCD screens, at which point they became very happy indeed!

©Neil Turner/TSL. London, August 2006.

The magazine went for frame 032 but I have always preferred 027. It has been in and out of my folio over the last three years and I think that it will get another outing soon.

Techie stuff: Canon EOS1D MkII cameras with 16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L lenses. Some available light but mostly with a Lumedyne Signature series flash and a 24″ x 32″ Chimera soft box. There is also quite a bit of ambient light in the pictures.

The man who wrote “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”

Everyone who has ever read books to very young children should have seen “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. It’s an absolute classic and, back in 1999 I had five minutes to shoot a portrait of Eric Carle, the American writer and illustrator who created it at a London Hotel. I should have had longer but I was badly late because I’d been given the wrong address but he was charming, patient and his PR people were relaxed as well. At the time, he was 70 years old and the book was coming out as a 30th anniversary edition.

©Neil Turner/TSL. May 1999, London.

As soon as I got there, I set up my Lumedyne battery powered light with a simple shoot-through umbrella and started to work.  The author was sat in a high backed chair and I decided to work around where he was already sitting – he looked relaxed and I was still in “full apology mode”.

Although this was nearly 13 years ago I can still remember a random throughout that came into my head “if I were casting someone to be Santa Claus, it would be this guy”. From then onwards all I could see was a really nice bloke with a twinkle in his eye that children would adore. The fact that he must have illuminated millions of childhoods was certainly in my mind and we shot some very nice pictures very quickly.

©Neil Turner/TSL. May 1999, London.

This set of eight pictures is all that remains from the shoot. Back in 1999 storage was still expensive and the company policy was to use Zip discs (remember them?). My laptop had a zip drive and I put the wider edit onto the “official” zip disc and kept the tight edit on another disc for my own records. The official disc with the Kodak RAW files was lost somewhere in the mists of time and we didn’t discover that it was gone until we started to upload the entire back catalogue into a managed and backed-up library a couple of years later. You learn from your mistakes.

I like the simple and innocent tight composition of frame 004 and I love the expression of frame 007. I have read his books to young members of the family ever since and I try really hard to do so with the same twinkle in my eye that the author had.

This was still the early days of digital and I was using a Kodak DCS520 (Canon D2000) with Canon 17-35, 28-70 and 70-200 f2.8 lenses. At 200 ISO, with good light and if you didn’t need to use the pictures too large the quality of the files was actually very good indeed.