portrait

One more from the archive project

Professor Richard Dawkins, Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford. © NEIL TURNER/TSL. October 2001.

When I was posting an archive portrait a day to my instagram account during the COVID-19 lockdown I had about thirty images in my mind that were ‘must-have’ pictures that I remembered being something special. When I started to put to the set together two things surprised me;

  • Some of those thirty must-have pictures weren’t as good as my memory told me they were.
  • Quite a few others were available top take their place in the top thirty – either because they were way better than I had remembered or because I had totally forgotten about them.
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Magic moments – I’ve had a few

©Neil Turner/TSL | March 1997

Working with teams of photographers on big sports projects is one of my main sources of income these days. Get a bunch of photographers together and they will almost inevitably start to tell stories about what they’ve done and who they’ve met.

Recently a colleague mentioned my Instagram project from last year and how he had enjoyed seeing my early work. That lead to a discussion about how lucky we are to go places and to see things that the general public can’t or, at least can’t without spending a lot of money.

For me the places come second to the people.

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One hundred and eighty portraits later

A section of 180 of my portraits posted to Instagram during my project.

After six months and 180 portraits posted to Instagram and Facebook I find myself at a point where I’ve shown enough archive imperfect portraits for now. It’s nearly Christmas and it feels like the right time to hit the pause button on, what has been, a very enjoyable diversion from the woes of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, restrictions and the lack of new work on offer.

As I sit here and contemplate what has been good, bad and indifferent about posting so many of my favourites from 1988 to 2008 the temptation to perform some sort of statistical analysis has been quite strong and the parallel temptation to draw conclusions from the feedback has been stronger still. For now I am going to settle for some general impressions and some feelings that have struck me during the whole process so here’s a bullet-pointed list of some of them: (more…)

Two set-ups at once

Bill Cockburn at the School Teachers Review Body. ©Neil Turner/TSL

From time-to-time I repost one of the fifty technique examples that were posted on the original dg28.com website between 1999 and 2008. I have timed this one to go with uploading this particular frame to my Instagram feed as one of the series of archive portraits that I’ve been putting there for well over five months.

The idea here is to have two separate lighting set-ups for one interview portrait without having to constantly move around the room adjusting lights. This interview was with a senior businessman who chaired a body that decided how much teachers’ pay rises will be each year. The reporter wasn’t all that comfortable with me shooting through the interview but it was what the picture editor wanted, so that’s what I did. This job required a bit of quick thinking so that I could get two different set-ups in place. (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…)