anecdote

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…)

Imperfect Portraiture

Pascale Allotey, Professor in Race and Diversity at Brunel university in west London.© Neil Turner/TSL November 2005

I have had the title for this piece rattling around in my head for several weeks now but before I dive in I want to explain that it is about a certain style of editorial portraiture that appeals to me. It is equally important that nobody reading this thinks that I believe other forms of portrait photography are somehow inferior or are “less portraity”.

I suspect that every sentiment that you will read in this mini-essay will have been expressed somewhere on my blog at some point in time. After all, if you did a search for the word “portrait” on this site you would get hundreds of hits. From explaining the anguish of editing your own work to my definition of what is and is not a portrait. I have written about why this kind of photography speaks to me so loudly and so consistently but I have wanted for some time to bring all of those thoughts and impulses together. As always, there are two reasons for doing this; the first is to stimulate thought and debate amongst those who care to read it and secondly to help me further clarify my own opinions and, by doing so, make my own work better.

Of course there isn’t a strict set of rules about what constitutes a portrait. Back in 2011 I wrote this; (more…)

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. (more…)

Archive surfing

The photo that became the first technique example on my first website in April 2000. ©Neil Turner/TSL

Like so many of my colleagues the Covid 19 Pandemic has robbed me of almost all of my work. 2020 was looking to be a great year with lots of interesting projects but from the moment that the first lockdowns started to swing into action across the world my assignments and projects started to get postponed and cancelled at a very rapid rate. As I sit here I have nothing booked for the rest of the year.

The other thing that I have in common with a huge percentage of those colleagues is that I have been giving some more attention to my archives. I had several months off in 2017 and so my digital images are already well protected and catalogued so I have been looking at transparencies, negatives and back ups of my old digital life. (more…)

Mission Creep

I have lost count of the number of times I have agreed the details of an assignment with a client only to find out that they want to add a few “little extras” on the day of the shoot. Sometimes it is a job where we agreed to do a dozen headshots only to find out that they’ve added another six or seven. It can be a school prospectus shoot which was meant to end with the school day where, over a cup of coffee, they casually add an after-school club that doesn’t start until after you were supposed to be off-site. In the most extreme case I can remember it was to do half of the job in central London and the rest of it a two-hour drive away on the outskirts of Coventry.

The military term “mission creep” sort of covers this except that most definitions use the word “unintentionally” whereas this kind of “job expansion” is pretty often entirely intentional. How you handle this regular occurrence says a lot about you as a photographer and can define your relationship with that client for years to come. What might seem as a harmless addition to the brief can leave you with extra work, less time to shoot parts of the original brief and can get you into a row with the client.

For me the worst part of mission creep is the almost inevitable additional time that will have to be spent in post production. It stands to reason that even if you can shoot extra pictures in the time given for the job there will be a greater number of images to be sorted, captioned, cropped and toned. The client almost always ends up getting what they perceive as more pictures for the same fee. (more…)

Older than old school…

Equipment and my equipment choices tend to evolve pretty slowly. Way back in the 1980s I was using a lot of off-camera flash on location and that meant either owning and running a lot of extension cables with my Elinchrom mains powered units, buying (or renting) a Norman system or using some basic flashguns (the term speed light hadn’t really entered common usage by then, other than as part of a Nikon model name) to do the job. I came across the Lumedyne range (old school) in the mid 1990s, although they had been around for a while by then. Before that I spent many happy years with my cobbled-together battery powered flash kit which was based around the already long-in-the-tooth Vivitar 285 system. I call it a system because there was a ton of accessories that you could get for it and it had some common connections that meant you could pair it up with almost anything you wanted to.

I mention all of this because I stumbled across a pretty much complete Vivitar 285 kit when I was looking for something else in my many boxes of disused and “may-come-in-handy-one-day” kit. In the box were: (more…)